|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 304 ]
There is a separation of lifestyle and spirituality in the modern mentality, which is exemplified in the illusion within which most so-called 'spiritual practitioners' live their lives.
Many presume to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, stay up to all hours of the night, frequent crowded, noisy and very 'un-spiritual' bars and clubs, sleep in late, and have transient and promiscuous relationships. They work in all manner of questionable professions, many of which are not positive influences on humanity, and even horror of horrors, they eat meat! Yet at the same time they 'do yoga', as if none of these things were themselves relevant to the practice of yoga.
A new motto has sprung to the rescue: "everything in moderation." This blanket permission is a convenient elixir to the untamed ego, but I assure you that when the Buddha spoke of the middle path he did not mean that one should indulge moderately in all manner of unhealthy ingestions and crude behaviours.
He did not suggest that a little alcohol is ok, but that a lot is bad; that a few drugs here and there are no problem, but to avoid becoming an addict; that a small amount of promiscuousness is fine, but that one should avoid becoming a tramp! Beware of these justifications! They do not come from a mind that is attached to the highest thought, but rather from one which is unable to free itself from the clutches of the lowest!
So the 'modern yogi' prefers to pick and choose what aspects of yoga they wish to engage in and which not. They prefer to embrace those things which already fit nicely into their current lifestyles, and to avoid those which conflict with the the things they have become greatly attached to. The modern yogi, rather than change their self, prefers to change yoga -- to alter the definition and practice of this ancient science of life to fit the life that they want, the one that they already have!
One most appropriate definition of stupidity is "doing the same thing over and over again, but somehow expecting different results!" At the end of the day, the modern yogi is left standing with the same problems of life which burdened them before they started with yoga. They lack compassion and understanding; they have difficulties in their relationships; they remain unmindful consumers whose lives are still largely ruled by desire for that which they do not need; they are discontent and a lack of fulfilment remains a focal point in their lives.
In many cases, an already unruly ego has been further fuelled with a body-conscious yoga practice that neglects inner study and deeper meaning. The modern yogi, though they may have gained some degree of physical health and beauty, remains psychologically, emotionally and spiritually unhealthy.
If we don't understand the relationship between lifestyle and health then we stand little chance of creating and maintaining a healthy body. If we don't understand the relationship between lifestyle and mental health, then we stand little chance harmonizing the mind. If we don't understand the relationship between lifestyle and emotional health, then we stand little chance of gaining control over our emotions. If we don't understand the relationship between lifestyle and spiritual evolution, then we stand little chance evolving beyond our primitive, animal urges.
This is a bitter pill for the Western yogi to swallow, and a tough realization to come to terms with -- but ultimately a necessary step if we truly want to experience lasting transformation in our lives...
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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