Yoga and the Art of Living Peacefully

By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

No matter how long you practice Yoga, meditation, Pranayama, or how many Sun Salutations you perform in the morning, it is still possible to encounter a difficult person in traffic, work, school, at home, and anywhere else. Why someone would choose to be difficult, every day, is a mystery to most of us.

So, let’s look at some ideas for peaceful co-existence. In this life, you are guaranteed to encounter good people and not so good people. Some people may not like the way we look, talk, walk, or something else, but it is our reaction to being disliked, which takes a toll on us.

Let’s face it; most of us want to loved by everyone. Yet, can you name a person who is loved by everyone? When you think deeply on this point, you will notice that some of the most peaceful people, who ever lived on this planet, were executed or assassinated. If you could talk to the executioners, and assassins, they would justify their actions.

Think of all the wars, genocide, witch hunts, and pogroms of the past. There is a common thread to all of it. Oppressors are always intolerant and self-righteous. With that said, intolerance and self-righteousness are very big problems, but they seem to start innocently.

How often have we felt we were better than someone else because of religion, race, gender, monetary status, ethnic origin, education, intelligence, or something else? Do we waste time by talking about other people to make ourselves feel better?

Even within circles of Yoga, some will make distinctions, in the quest for superiority. On the surface, it seems innocent enough, but a lit match can become a forest fire, under the right circumstances. A Yogi, or Yogini, should never be self-righteous or intolerant.

Is a vegetarian a better person, than someone else, because he or she is making an ethical decision not to eat meat? There are a few vegetarians who try very hard to make meat eaters miserable, and there are meat eaters who do the same to vegetarians. Neither group is right to alienate the other.

A Yoga student, who eats meat, drinks coffee, and eats doughnuts, is not a “bad Yogi,” but he or she knows wiser dietary choices could be made. In time, Yoga practice will cause anyone to make wise, or moderate, choices in all phases of life.

If you practice Yoga regularly, you are a public representative of Yoga. Knowing this, you can help people, but do not criticize them, if they make unwise decisions. I once heard a Yoga teacher say: “Only a stupid person would refuse to take responsibility for his or her health.”

Let’s re-phrase that just a bit to: “Taking responsibility for your health is a sign of wisdom.” Our power to influence the world around us is rooted in our example and the temperament of our message. We should always be kind, tolerant, and righteous, but we should never be self-righteous.

To practice non-judgment is difficult at all times. We should be especially careful to practice non-judgment when we look at ourselves.

© Copyright 2007 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

Teaching Hatha Yoga: How long should warm-ups be?

By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

There are many ceremonial aspects, within a Hatha Yoga class, which make up the entire class. These are necessary components such as: The greeting, bringing your presence into the room, rooting, mantra, mudra, Pranayama, warm-ups, Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations), Asana, relaxation techniques, meditation, and the closing ceremony (which may end with a reading, Udgeeth Pranayama, Japa, Namaste, Thank You, a combination of these, or something else).

The value of warm-ups, before Asana (Yoga posture) practice, cannot be understated in Yoga, and in life. Warm-ups reduce the chance of injury to the practitioner. The time spent doing warm-ups can vary due to the purpose.

The age of each student, the time of day, the outside temperature, and the purpose of the warm-up, can be factors, which determine the time frame. When I teach a Chair Yoga class, the warm-ups may take 30 minutes or more because the median age in the class is 70 years of age.

In relation to this, and for safety’s sake, warm-ups, before personal Yoga practice, exercise, or any sport, tend to be longer as we age. Morning warm-ups should be longer than evening, if we are on a “regular day time schedule” (rising in the morning and sleeping at night).

Muscles tend to contract as we sleep, so we should be careful not to strain them in the morning. The muscles also tend to tense up in the winter, therefore, the time of year, and the region where you live, can be a factor.

Finally, the purpose of the warm-up may also differ. Older students, who practice in Vinyasa or Power Yoga classes, should warm up, a little more, than younger students. Older students should be aware of pre-existing injuries and take care of them.

© Copyright 2007 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications