Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yama Pt. 5: Aparigraha

As we finish up the last of the 5 Yamas in Patanjali’s “Eight Limbs of Yoga,” let’s do this quick breathing exercise together:

Keep your shoulders relaxed, sitting with spine in neutral.
Take a deep breath in.
Let the breath out.

Now, breathe in again; but this time,
notice how the breath feels as you fill up your lungs with air.
Then breathe out, letting that breath go.


How did that feel?  Pretty good, I’m sure.  🙂

Aparigraha is sanskrit for Non-Possessiveness.  This covers everything from materialism, hoarding, unhealthy habits… basically, anything that causes attachments outside of God.  Why is practicing Aparigraha so important?  I will break my response into two parts: During and After.

 

During the Practice of Aparigraha

One of the greatest challenges of practicing non-possessiveness during this COVID-19 Pandemic is all the online shopping that is practically being shoved in front of our faces. When I checked my e-mail yesterday afternoon, I had 73 Unread messages, and almost all of them were e-mails from retailers notifying me of a sale, a coupon code, or a new promotional item.  I think I’ve only shopped from maybe 7-8 of those retailers, and I generally delete those e-mails; but once in a while, an e-mail subject line will catch my eye if it mentions a 50%-75% off sale.  I will click on the e-mail and start browsing on their online store, feeling the temptation to buy the leggings or the eyeshadow palette just because they’re on sale.  I may even add them to my cart, but in the end, I delete them out of the cart because I know that I don’t really need another pair of leggings or another palette of eyeshadow.  Part of what helps me is going back to what the logic part of my brain — the frontal lobe — is telling me.

When we’re practicing non-possessiveness, we allow ourselves to receive the enjoyment and the nourishment of the object/people/situations but we don’t become attached and/or addicted to it.  We begin to understand that we can not look at tangible things the same way that we look at non-tangible things.  Tangible things are temporary, whereas non-tangible things are eternal.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Corinthian 4:18

After the Practice of Aparigraha

Another thing I’ve been seeing a lot online is ads for weight-loss and fitness programs.  Most of these ads show the “Before” and “After” photos of people that have successfully lost weight or gained muscle-definition using their program.  Just like how the “After” photos show the benefits of the program, you see the benefits of practicing non-possessiveness after you actually practice it.  By not buying things that you don’t really need, you will have money in your bank account, you won’t have a credit card bill at the end of the month (which would included a monthly interest rate that you will have to pay), you will actually enjoy the things that you already have, and you won’t have to worry about somehow making more room in your home for the things you just bought.  You may even notice that you feel happier from not being ruled by a life of excess.  You’re able to make space in your heart and your soul for more experiences, more freedom, and more joy.  This brings about a sense of empowerment to move forward without dragging a big, heavy load of things that will only slow you down from your ultimate, divine purpose in your life.

In the beginning this blog, I invited you to do a breathing exercise.  The air that you breathed in nourished your body and kept you alive; but what would’ve happened if you held on to that breath and not let it out?   That very breath which was meant to nourish you would have become toxic to your body.  Just like the breath, the tangible things in this world are not necessarily bad; but if we don’t learn to enjoy them and then let them go, they will end up become toxic to our spiritual growths.

Each of the five Yamas that I have spoken in these past five weeks — Ahimsa (Non-Violence), Satya (Truthfulness), Asteya (Non-Stealing), Brahmachaya (Non-Excess), and Aparigraha (Non-Possessiveness) — make up the restraints and moral codes that build on the previous Yama.  Next week, I will begin the topic of the second limb of Yoga which is Niyamas.

With Gratitude,
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CHRISTIAN YOGI’S PERSPECTIVE ON YAMA PT. 4: BRAHMACHARYA

Brahmacharya — loosely translated to non-excess or moderation — is made up of two words, brahman which means “the divine” or “ultimate” and charya which means “the path”.  So put together, brahmacharya means the path of the divine.  When one is on the path of the divine, they live and make choices avoiding selfish motives.  To be on the path of the divine requires us to let go of idolatry in order to continue the journey to the Self, the one that God has created us to be. 

To claim that we all struggle with idolatry may sound harsh, but it does not make it any less true.  The dictionary defines idolatry as, “extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone.”  The Bible defines idolatry as anything that one puts before God. 

“Do not worship any other gods besides me.” Do not make idols of any kind, whether in the shape of birds or animals or fish. You must never worship or bow down to them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god.”
Exodus 20:3-5

(On a side note, when God said that He’s a jealous God, it doesn’t mean a resentful jealousy; He’s referring to a protective, zealous, loving claim on His children.)

As a Christian living in the United States, I’m bombarded with struggles toward materialism, addiction to social media, and over-indulgence of the senses whether it be delicious foods, staying up late, binge-watching Netflix, etc.  Late last year, I started thinking about living a simpler life with less things.  Being that my family and I made a move from North Carolina to Texas in the middle of the pandemic (you can read all about it here), we had the opportunity to get rid of a lot of stuff (you don’t realize how much you’ve accumulated until you start packing for a move).  Getting rid of things was a lot harder than I had expected.  It felt like as we sold and gave away furniture, kitchen items, clothes, electronics, etc., we were letting go of the memories that were attached to them.  We live in such a sentimental world with heightened emotions where the media tells us to “listen to your heart” and “YOLO.”  But the problem of living an emotion-based life is that it causes you to put your utmost importance on pleasures of the flesh.  Not that we shouldn’t enjoy a refreshing watermelon or even a delicious piece of chocolate cake, but if our attention is more on these things than on God, they become idols in our lives. 

In the beginning of 2019, I had the privilege of taking a weekend certification workshop from the famous yoga teacher Nikki Myers, who said that co-dependency is also an addiction where “the belief that something outside of ourselves – people, places, things, behaviors or experiences – will bring fulfillment and joy.”  I think this can be said of almost everyone.  One could argue and say that if this is the case, we must get fulfillment and joy from within ourselves (and not from God).  But have you ever tried to make yourself experience fulfillment and joy without anything or anyone?  In my opinion, I don’t think it’s possible to not be co-dependent.  You can either be co-dependent on God, or your can be co-dependent on people, places, things, behaviors or experiences for that fulfillment and joy.  I believe that the latter way of living creates idolatry.  As a Chrisitian who uses yoga philosophy as a tool to enhance her faith and relationship with God, I practice brahmacharya — the way of the divine (aka the way of Jesus Christ) — by choosing to find moderation while living in this world so that I can ensure I don’t become self-indulgent on the pleasures of this world.

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.”
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

With Gratitude,
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CHRISTIAN YOGI’S PERSPECTIVE ON YAMA PT. 3: ASTEYA

The third Yama referenced in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is Asteya, which means Non-stealing.  When I hear word, “non-stealing,” my first thought is theft of an object; but non-stealing covers so many more areas than just a materialistic theft.  The following is just a three of many aspects of non-stealing from a Christian Yogi’s perspective:

Stealing from Others

This one seems pretty obvious, right?  Stealing from others includes possessions, time, energy, and anything else that does not belong to you.  When I was in elementary school, I used to go to my friends’ houses after school quite often because I was a latchkey kid.  One time, my friend was showing me a box full of jewelry that her mom had given her.  I had never seen so many jewelry in one room, in my whole entire life of 10 years.  As we were rummaging through all the jewelry, a pair of colorful earrings caught my eye.  I kept looking at them and admiring them even after we had moved on to playing with her toy kitchen set.  At some point that afternoon, I was alone in her room for about 5 minutes; by then, my admiration for those colorful earrings turned into envy. Within that 5 minutes, my envy turned into the actual act of stealing.  I quickly put the earrings in my pocket and then left her house shortly afterwards.  According to Exodus 20:1-17, the seventh of the Ten Commandments is “You shall not steal.”  Period.  No if’s, and’s or but’s.  I would like to tell you that my guilty conscience forced me to do the right thing by giving the earrings back to her and apologizing for my poor choice… but to my shame, that is not what happened.  I realized that I could never wear those earrings outside of my house because then she would know that I had stolen them from her.  I knew I couldn’t lie and say that my parents bought them for me because they were unique and unlike any other earrings that were being sold at stores (after all, this was before the internet and online shopping).  So instead of coming clean, I just sneaked them back into the drawer the next time I went to her house.  She never knew they were missing, but because I knew, I felt a sense of guilt every time I saw her.

Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel.
Proverbs 20:17

The problem with stealing — in addition to the fact that God commands us to not steal — is that we are taking something that does not belong to us.  Stealing violates the spiritual, emotional, and mental (and sometimes physical) connection we have with others.

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”
― Martin Luther King Jr. 

We also steal from others in several different ways:

1.  Stealing time by showing up to appointments late or taking up more time than the mutually agreed length. (For example, as a Yoga Teacher, I do my best to start and end my classes on time so that I can respect everyone’s schedules.)

2.  Stealing energy by expecting others to initiate conversations with you or just constantly being negative around others. (I’m sure you have been around a few “energy suckers” in your lifetime; These are the people that after spending time with them, you feel completely drained and wiped out emotionally and mentally.)

When we steal from others, we’re also stealing from ourselves.


Stealing from Ourselves

We live in a world that so desperately desires individuality.  It’s true that we are all unique and special in our own ways, but we as a society have forgotten the importance of community and the concept of oneness.

“In nature we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it, under it and over it.”
―  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Whenever we steal from others, we lose a little bit of integrity each time.  God has allowed us to be born with some  wonderful talents, character, and passions.  In Jeremiah 29:11, God says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  It has always been God’s plan to give us hope and a future worth experiencing; but in our limited understanding, we think He should just hand over prosperity, protection, hope and future.  He wants us to have these things, but we must first be ready (in our character and heart) to handle such a life.  When we give into our fleshly desires and temporary pleasures that last only for a moment, we begin to tear down the excellence and beauty of who God has created us to be.  We rob ourselves of the fruits of the Spirit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Galatians 5:22-23a

Who wouldn’t want to be more loving, joyful, peaceful, forgiving, kind, good, faithful, gentle and self-controlled?  These are available to us as long as we’re willing to plant the seeds, nurture them and grow them so that they can produce these fruits of the Spirit.  By taking a short cut, an easy way out or just dismissing that inner voice prompting us to do the right thing, we rob ourselves of God’s promises for our lives.


Stealing from God

This one can be a touchy subject.  The scripture that talks about stealing from God is Malachi 3:8 where God says, “Will a man rob God?  Yet you have robbed Me!  But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.”  (Check out this article on Bible.org for more on this scripture.)  But there are more ways we can be stealing from God.

1.  We can be stealing from God by taking the credit for what He has done.  In Judges 7, the Israelites experienced victory over the Midianites with just 300 fighting men. (The Midianites had 12,000 fighting men.)  Initially, there were 32,000 Israelites, but God told Gideon, the leader of the army,

The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’
Judges 7:2

We steal from God when we take credit for something that was meant for God’s glory.

2.  We can be stealing from God by becoming a hindrance for others in their relationship with God.  In the book Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, the author Francis Chan writes, “From start to finish, this movie is obviously about God. He is the main character. How is is possible that we live as though it is about us?”  The movie that he’s referring to is LIFE.  When we try to be the main character of this movie, we create road blocks and distractions for others to focus on the main character, God.

Throughout the week, I invite you to pause and ask yourself, “Am I practicing Asteya in my heart, mind and actions?”

With Gratitude,
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Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yama Pt. 2: Satya

Satya (pronounced suht-yaa) — which means Truthfulness — is the second Yama which can be found in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.  As a Christian who uses Yoga and its philosophy as a tool to enhance her relationship with God, truthfulness is completely in line with the Bible.

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” 
Ephesians 4:15

So often, we approach truth and honesty without consideration and love towards the person we’re speaking the truth to.  I’ve heard people say things like, “I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings, but I’m just being honest,” or “What, you’d rather me lie to you?”  The first Yama, Ahimsa — which we talked about last week — is all about non-violence.  Ahimsa and Satya go hand in hand because truth must be spoken in a non-violent (loving) way.

“Love and truth are two sides of the same coin.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

In order to mature and grow to be fully aligned with the Self (aka the authentic YOU that God has created you to be) as well as to be united with Christ, we must speak the truth that is saturated with love.  The love from our truthfulness must be so evident that the words that we speak serves them and not our egos.  Any other way results in words being used as a personal weapon to destroy others.  In addition, in order to speak the truth in love to others, we must also be speaking the truth in love to ourselves as well; but how about if we don’t really know the truth?

One of my favorite phrases is “self-awareness.”  I love this phrase because in order to be self-aware, you must first be still, take a step back, and then examine yourself from the most unbiased way possible.  That last part — unbiased self-examination — determines whether you are self-aware or self-unaware.  Unbiased self-examination can not happen without Satya.

“But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
James 1:25

Having an unchanging standard is essential for unbiased self-examination.  The Bible does not change, so if I’m examining myself and examining the Bible to make the two match up, I must be the one to change.  My self-awareness comes from comparing my truth to Biblical truth.  Whenever I find myself feeling stuck or unsure of where I am in this journey of life, I know I have the Word of God to steer me back — like a compass — on the path that is already paved for me by Jesus.

Although being truthful takes courage, it has some great rewards.  Mark Twain is known to have said, “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.”  One time in my younger years, I decided to accept an invitation to spend time with a guy that my friend and I both liked.  She felt a bit insecure and jealous about my friendship with him; and instead of turning down his invitation or just being honest with her, I lied to her and said that I was helping my mom with some chores.  Granted, nothing inappropriate happened between us, but because I lied to her, I made up several other lies to cover up that lie.  It became exhausting to remember all the lies I told just to cover up that one lie!  Had I just been honest with her, there wouldn’t have been tension in our friendship and I wouldn’t have had to waste brainpower just to remember all the lies.  In the end, I confessed to her and I apologized.  She was more hurt about me lying to her than the fact that I spent time with him.  It took some time, but our friendship proved to be stronger than the guy who ended up exiting our lives later that year.  Part of John 8:31-32 reads, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”   There is so much freedom in living out Satya! 🙌

Come back next week as I discuss the third Yama, Asteya (Non-Stealing).

With Gratitude,
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Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yama Pt. 1: Ahimsa

Ahimsa is Sanskrit which translates to Non-Violence.  This is the first of five Yamas, which is one of the eight limbs of Yoga found in Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  You may be thinking, “Wait, I thought you’re a Christian.  Isn’t that book (and other ancient yogic texts) part of the Hindu religion?”  In the famous words of one of my great teachers Nikki Myers, “It depends.”  As I’ve explained in my previous blogs, Yoga itself is not a religion; it’s a tool to help you get closer to meeting your Self, which is the core of your authenticity by God’s design.  If you’re a Hindu and use the Yoga and its texts as part of your belief, then yes, it is a part of the Hindu religion.  But that could be said of any religious beliefs and faiths.  If you’re Buddhist and use the same practices and texts to enhance your Buddhist faith, then it is absolutely a part of the Buddhist religion.  You see where I’m going with this, right?  When I use Yoga and its philosophies as a tool in my walk with God, it becomes a Christian practice because I’m a Christian who is practicing Yoga.  Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get back to the subject for today’s blog.  😉

Ahimsa, aka Non-Violence, refers to actions, thoughts, words, feelings… basically, everything.  Romans 12:17 reads,  “Do not repay evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  Ahimsa towards those who you feel like don’t deserve kindness, grace and mercy.  Ahimsa towards that person who cut you off and then flipped you off.  Ahimsa towards that person that backstabbed you or spread rumors about you.  Yoga Philosophy advises the Yogi to practice Ahimsa; The Bible shows you how.

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Proverbs 15:1

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Luke 6:31

Another aspect of Ahimsa is Non-Violence toward yourself.  This goes beyond physical self-harm.  When was the last time you said something negative about yourself out loud or in your mind?  Comments such as, “Ugh, I’m so fat,” “I wish I was as pretty as her,” “I’m so stupid,” create negativity in our hearts and minds… and ultimately, it effects our spirit.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reads, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.”  We are spiritual beings that have been gifted this human body to reside in while we’re here on earth.  Our bodies are a gift from God, so when we speak negatively about His gift, it breaks His heart.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Psalm 139:13-14
“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Psalm 139:16

A Japanese Scientist named Masaru Emoto conducted a research on how the human consciousness and intentions can effect the molecular structure of water.  He did several experiments observing the physical effect of words, prayers, music and environment on the structure of water. He hired photographers to take pictures of water after  exposing them the various words and phrases (some positive like “Thank you” and some negative like, “You make me sick”) and froze them until they formed crystalline structures.  The photos that were taken showed that the water that was exposed to positive words and phrases formed beautiful, symmetrical crystals; however, the water that was exposed to negative words and phrases formed jagged, disturbing, asymmetrical crystals.  An adult human body is made of approximately 60% water; and the heart and the brain is composed of approximately 73% water.  So if Dr. Emoto’s theories are true (which I personally believe they are), the words we speak to ourselves and others have the potential to change the way a person thinks, feels and acts.

I pray that through positive words and displaying unconditional kindness to ourselves and others, we will live out Ahimsa throughout our lives.  Stay tuned for my blog next week on the second Yama, Satya (truthfulness).

 

With Gratitude,
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A Christian Yogi’s Perspective on Yoga Philosophy: Introduction

In the past several months, I have been writing mostly about my journey in completing a 300-Hour Advanced Yoga Teacher Training as well as the lessons I learned along the way.  For the rest of this year, I will be diving deeper into a topic of Yoga Philosophy that every Yoga Teacher learns about in their teacher training: The Eight Limbs of Yoga.  As a Yogi that follows the scriptures written in the Bible, I will be writing about the Eight Limbs from a Christian’s perspective.

Just to tell you more about me beyond what my bio says on this website, I come from a Buddhist lineage.  As a young child in Seoul, South Korea, we used to go to a Buddhist temple a few times a year, and we used to observe “jesa” which is a ceremony to honor and invoke the presence of deceased ancestors spirits on the anniversary of their death.  We weren’t super strict Buddhists, but these things that we did were part of our ancestral tradition that were handed down for many generations.  When we moved to the United States in 1983, I started going to a church with my neighborhood friends for social reasons.  Even though my reason to going to church was purely selfish, the seeds of faith were planted but stayed dormant throughout my teen years.

As a sophomore at California State University in Northridge in 1994, I asked a few of my Christian friends to teach me what I needed to know to become a true, committed disciple of Jesus Christ.  The more I learned about God’s plans for me through the Bible, the more I felt compelled to walk away from everything that was holding me back from living a life full of hope, love and a “peace that transcends all understanding.”

Fast forward to the beginning of 2013: I enrolled in a 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training that ended up transforming my life with God completely.  I learned techniques that helped me to become still so that I can hear God’s whispers, and I went through a self-inquiry that helped me to understand my tendencies toward godly things as well as my tendencies toward self-destruction.  I received some push-back from well-intentioned Christians for practicing and teaching Yoga, but surprisingly, these encounters helped me to become more secure in my “unique” methods of connecting with God.  I put the word “unique” in quotations because they’re really not unique at all:  Meditation is mentioned throughout the Bible, and — depending on your intentions — the Yoga poses themselves could mean nothing, or they could mean everything.

Fast forward to 2020:  My family and I have moved back to Texas after living in North Carolina for 4½ years, and I am still learning and growing as a student and a teacher of Yoga and Meditation… and this growth helps me to get closer and closer to the authentic, pure essence of who God has created me to be.  There are some things in Yoga Philosophy that I disagree with; but guess what?  There isn’t one school of thought or philosophy in Yoga!  When I come across any Yoga philosophy that does not align with the Bible, I choose to not let that be part of what I practice.  This does not make me less of a Yogi just like practicing and teaching Yoga does not make me less of a Christian.  Yoga is a tool to help enhance one’s faith and belief system.  Contrary to popular belief, Yoga does not belong to one single religion.  The Eight Limbs of Yoga that I will be elaborating on for the remainder of the year are as follows:

  1. Yama – “Moral Code/Guidelines” toward external environment
  2. Niyama – “Personal Code/Guidelines” toward oneself
  3. Asana – Physical postures
  4. Pranayama – Breath Control
  5. Prathayahara – Sense Withdrawal
  6. Dharana – Concentration
  7. Dhyana – Meditation
  8. Samadhi – Union with God or Complete Integration

Next week, I will begin a deep-dive on the first aspect of Yama, which is Ahimsa (Non-Violence).

With Gratitude,
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