The Bhagavad Gita (Sanskrit for “Song of the Lord”) is one of the world’s most renowned and valuable pieces of literature. The Gita in itself is a godly poem innate in the epic Mahabharata, which is one of the literature pillars of Hindu philosophy. This poem illustrates a conversation between Lord Krishna and Prince Arjun, who at the time, was to lead a the battle of Khurukshetra.
Arjun was torn with confusion and despair, as being the leader of one of the fighting sides, he would be forced to fight his own relatives and teacher, as his enemies. He consults his charioteer and dear friend Krishna, who seeing Arjun’s confusion, reveals himself as the supreme Godhead and begins the wisest, most supreme speech, about how to live a sattvic life and attain liberation from the cycle of life and death.
For its transcendental and practical guidance, the Bhagavad Gita, has so many aplicable tools that we can not only use as a guide book for life, but as how to conduct a healthy relationship with our asana practice, as part of our dharma.
Here’s a few lessons from the Gita that may help enlighten our daily practice:
Early on his wise rant, Sri Krishna advices his beloved friend and great warrior, Arjun, to maintain equanimity of mind above all: “When the senses contact sense objects, a person experiences cold or heat, pleasure or pain. These experiences are fleeting; they come and go. Bear them patiently Arjuna” (ch 2/12).
This teaching can sharply apply to the equanimity of mindset we must approach our asana practice with, maintaining our breath flowing in difficulty or ease equally. Sri Krishna’s teaching invites us to receive all asanas with an open heart and evenness of mind. Even those that we find incredibly challenging and instinctively reject. Yet, if we approach them with equal respect, and allow them to teach us what we have to learn, maybe… just maybe… one day we will learn to love those asanas which we once pushed against.
Sri Krishna elaborates on this topic: “…perform work in this world Arjuna, as a man established within himself – without selfish attachments and alike in success and defeat. For yoga is perfect evenness of mind” (ch2/48). While emphasizing once again equanimity, Krishna also encourages us to surrender attachments of selfish results from our daily practice.
This implies that as our practice deepens, we must surrender our ego, and all wants that do not benefit the higher collective womb of this universe. To know that our practice, just like life itself, has a divine pace, which we must accept and surrender to. Arjuna is encouraged to perform his duty as a warrior and embrace his Karma Yoga. Lord Krishna further defines yoga as “skill in action” (ch 2/50). We are all human beings and inevitably experience unsettling emotions, sloth and lethargy sometimes.
This teaching is a wonderful reminder instructing us to get in movement when in doubt. Simply get on the matt and perform your dharma! Action will help us overcome the dualistic nature of our mind.
The Gita also an inspires us to honor our inner divinity by respecting our bodies’ boundaries.
Sri Krishna tells Arjuna “Even a wise man acts within the limitations of his own nature… the senses have been conditioned but attraction to the pleasant and aversion to the unpleasant. Do not be ruled by them; they are obstacles in your path” (ch 3/33). This wise gem suggests that only we can discern what our limitations are and we must accept them gracefully and adjust our practice accordingly.
Sometimes we’re beginners, sometimes we need assistance or props and we must accept it with humility. As our practice improves, we must watch our egos not to get aggrandized and harm our bodies as a consequence. If we have been blessed enough to have been kissed by the knowledge of Patanjali and the great yogi sages, we must honor and respect our nature. Let us make the necessary adjustments tailored by our unique demands of our nature.
The path of yoga strives to unite our mind body and spirits, yet the practice is individual just like any other dharma we perform. Sri Krishna enhances we must not compare our practice or ourselves to others: “It is better to strive in one’s own dharma than to succeed in the dharma of another. Nothing is ever lost in following one’s own dharma, but competition in another’s dharma brings fear and insecurity” (ch 3/35). Accepting with total surrender and devotion the progress and limitations of our practice without ever comparing ourselves, will bring us the peace of mind and balance we practice for on the first place.
Our practice is an opportunity of personal development. Its a sacred space that allows us to observe our truest nature with real depth and intimacy. We can study where we excel and where we lack confidence, strength and flexibility conscious that we will never achieve perfection and the teaching is eternal. No practice is easier than another. Each practice brings a new opportunity for growth and improvement.
Sri Krishna’s teachings from the Bhagavad Gita gives us the tools to approach yoga with our inner warrior just as he advised Arjun to face war.
With equanimity, an open heart and mind, without attachments of results, performing our active practice, respecting our bodies limitations and never comparing our journey to others. The entire practice must be performed with total devotion and love to our inner Guru.
Finally, Sri Krishna talks about sattvic behavior and how it leads to the end of sorrow: “That which seems like poison at first, but tastes like nectar in the end – this is the joy of sattva, born of a mind at peace with itself” (ch 18, 37). This lucid teaching invites us to endure the sacrifices, pain and effort innate to our practice, resting assured that we will also receive the immense blessings of our discipline. The sweet nectar rewards come from our own hard work, and could never replace the instant gratification fixes of our senses’ cravings. Let us surrender our hearts with true devotion and awareness to this transcendental path of balance we call yoga.
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