Our Parents and Our Yoga Practice

Focus Of The Month – May, 2018


Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru Devo Maheshwara

Guru Sakshat Param Brahma Tasmai Shri Gurave Namah


Our creation is that guru; the duration of our lives is that guru; our trials, illnesses and calamities is that guru. There is a guru that is nearby and a guru that is beyond the beyond. I humbly make my offering to the guru, the beautiful remover of ignorance, the enlightenment principle that is within me and surrounds me at all times.

from Guru Stotram


Guru means teacher, the enlightenment principle. The Hindu Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva symbolizes the process of creation, sustenance and destruction that all of manifestation is subjected to. Brahma is creation and refers to the circumstances of our birth, our parents, the relationship between our parents, the emotions and energies our mother exposed herself to during pregnancy and birth, and the culture and socio-economic circumstances. In this mantra, we are invited to look at all these aspects as a teaching.

 

In Western society, there has been an increasing trend towards individualization and single-handedly taking credit for everything we accomplish. We have forgotten the people who have opened doors for us, and we take any sacrifices our parents have made for us for granted. We have replaced gratitude with entitlement, and we no longer know the secrets of what holds an ecosystem, a community or a family together. We are all suffering in varying degrees from the disease of disconnect.

 

Some years ago, respect became confused with punishment and oppression, instead of an attitude of deep love, reverence and appreciation. We began to reject expressions of respect towards our parents, teachers and elders, and have stopped teaching it to our children. When students are asked to reflect on their parents, the mood tends to become very quiet, solemn and tearful. So many of us have heavy issues with our parents, and often have stopped talking to them altogether. We continue to live with unresolved pain and hurt lingering under the surface, until it is too late. A parent falls ill or dies. Misunderstandings, unskillful communication or abusive patterns are left in a puddle of darkness, confusion and regrets.

 

Some of us are in our eighties, our mother or father has been under the ground for 25 years, and still, day after day, we are making ourselves miserable thinking about what horrible things our mother or father did to us. We are still waiting for the deceased parent to apologize or somehow fix the situation, not realizing that the only person, who can relieve us from all of that suffering is us.

 

Yoga practice teaches how to reconcile the relationship from our end. The physical presence of the other person may not even be required. We train ourselves to be humble, get over false pride and see strength in making the first gesture towards reconciliation. Often, it is not even a matter of a huge drama or catharsis, but just a small energetic shift, comparable to actively engaging the spiraling movements in our thighs, lifting our inner arches or pressing our big toe mounds into the ground. These are small, almost invisible adjustments that will create a ripple effect through the whole body and bring the whole pose into balance. In the same way, a small internal shift brought about by setting an intention to look at one good quality in each of our parents, can totally change the relationship. Remember: any rift with our parents is a reflection of a rift within ourselves. 

 

Harmonizing the relationship with our parents and our teachers is the key to managing all other relationships. We need to stop projecting outward, stop blaming, stop looking for fault and start by generating an energy of gratitude. We have to stop making exceptions that Yogic teachings only apply to certain situations, but not to others. We need to assume our responsibility in the conflict, and see it appearing from of our own projections.

 

Responding to any form of abuse, resentment will not lead us to liberation. Forgiveness is the only thing that will allow our hearts to become light. Forgiving is not so much about letting the other person off the hook, but it is about dropping the darkness that makes us sick and stops us from moving forward. Forgiveness is essential for spiritual growth. A famous quote by Martin Luther King Jr. says: “I have decided to go with love, hate is too heavy a burden to bear.”

 

When we are young, we see our parents as perfect, and when we grow up to be teenagers, our parents look like everything else than perfect. Yet, our expectation of perfection remains and creates a constant friction with our criticism. Can we perhaps accept that our parents always did their best, but may not always have been able to do this skillfully, because of the difficulties and suffering they encountered? Perhaps, if we ourselves are now a parent, we can see that being perfect all the time is an impossible task?

 

Sometimes parents forget that a child cannot be forced into the mold of their unfulfilled dreams. Sometimes, a mother is incapable of nurturing a child with maternal love, because of her own trauma. Still, she is doing her best. We may wish to see ourselves as totally different from your parents, but as we age, we may realize how much we are like them; we are a continuation of our parents, and our ancestors.

 

If we love our parents, we don’t have to say anything; our love is enough, and when they pass away, the love will continue, and there will be no regrets. Michael Franti gives us this beautiful contemplation: Your father is just an ordinary guy who fell in love!

 

 

Teaching Tips

 

  1. Teach the Chakra tuning class once per week and observe/discuss the process students are going through from week to week.
  2. Teach on Muladhara Chakra, emphasizing standing poses and Mula Bandha. We carry our parents, our ancestors in cells, tissues of body and mind; the genetics that allow us to perform Asana or not; we also carry their emotional/ physical addictions. See if you can relate to the tension in your body as just that, without labeling, without having to re-visit past dramas. Tension that is stored in our bodies can be accessed through the breath and the Asana. See it as balled up energy that can be transformed into something else or can be let go of. Release tension through the breath, Bija Mantras or singing along with a kirtan chant that is familiar to students.
  3. In fetal position, imagine what it was like in mother’s womb, where you did not have to worry about food or drink, where you were protected from heat and cold. Did you dream your mother’s dreams? Did you smile when she smiled? You chose exactly the perfect parents that your soul needed to experience for your spiritual and personal development.
  4. In child’s pose, think of father/ mother 5 years old, 10 years old, 15 years old; imagine father and mother as two young people who just fell in love.
  5. If you have reached the age of a parent, reflect on how you saw them at the time they were the same age as you are now. See yourself now; and, as you compare the two, it may help you to drop harsh judgments and opinions, and instead feel more compassionate and humble. Think about where both of you are going to be 300 years from now.
  6. Teach Gratitude Meditation, focusing on your parents, grand-parents, ancestors and then expand the circle to all the people whom you have met because of your parents and ancestors.
  7. Share the following poem in your classes:

Poem for our Parents

 

Mother and father are called
“Brahma,” “early teachers,”
and “worthy of adoration”
being compassionate to their family of children.
Therefore, the wise should pay
Them due homage and honor,
Provide them with food and drink.
With clothing and bedding,
Anoint and bathe them,
And wash their feet.
When he performs such services
For his mother and father,
That wise person is praised
Here and now, and after death
He rejoices in heaven.

–Buddha, Itivuttaka 106