Hey Yogis and Yoginis. How is your Fall going? Her in the Northwest, we have been blessed with the most amazing October. Many sunny skies, some clouds, some wind and a couple of powerful storms. And today, Halloween, it is sunny, crisp and the sky is filled with clouds of the most interesting patterns.
Today is a day for celebrating spirits that play in the night; Jack-O-Lanterns, trick or treating, parties, costumes, and masks. As I was out raking leaves, I began thinking about the dress-up aspect of Halloween. When we don our costumes, are we setting out to hide our true identities or are we taking the opportunity to show the hidden sides of ourselves. Maybe we are exploring deeper aspects of ourselves we don’t have the chance to explore at other times of the year, those parts that we are perhaps to shy to share in normal circumstances?
And of course, I began to look at this from the yogic perspective. I began to explore the parallels between a deep yoga practice and the celebration of Halloween. Yes, I know you are probably laughing right now. But really, I think we can do this. Look for example at how in yoga, we get the chance to go deeper into each pose, perhaps reaching into areas we don’t normally go. Trying out poses that we have seen but never thought we could do. Encouraging our breath and our bodies to reach out and explore the limits of that which we consider ourselves to be, and in doing so, find that the boundaries to our identities might be pushed just a bit further.
Maybe the most interesting question is …. What masks do we wear everyday to shield ourselves from ourselves and the rest of the world? How do we present ourselves to the world and how do we protect ourselves from the world. Perhaps everyday is Halloween, and it is only during our yoga practice that we begin to shed the masks and explore our true selves. Indeed Patanjali in laying out the eightfold path of yoga states quite clearly that it is through our practice that we can learn to take off the masks and experience our Divine selves (see list of limbs cited below). A scary and yet magnificent possibility.
So, as you play this Halloween and dress up yourself, your home, your children, and perhaps even your pets, take a moment to explore how your costume might indeed be a manifestation of a deeper part of your being. Step into that space and enjoy it.
Shalom & Namaste & Happy Halloween
The core of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is an eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for yoga practice. Upon practicing all eight limbs of the path it becomes self-evident that no one element is elevated over another in a hierarchical order. Each is part of a holistic focus which eventually brings completeness to the individual as they find their connectivity to the divine. Because we are all uniquely individual a person can emphasize one branch and then move on to another as they round out their understanding.
In brief the eight limbs, or steps to yoga, are as follows:
1. Yama : Universal morality
2. Niyama : Personal observances
3. Asanas : Body postures
4. Pranayama : Breathing exercises, and control of prana
5. Pratyahara : Control of the senses
6. Dharana : Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
7. Dhyana : Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
8. Samadhi : Union with the Divine