One of the biggest misconceptions about yoga is that it’s all about peace. Since it’s all about peace, yoga practitioners never fight and they never confront. Right? Right? Ahh, not exactly.
Sure, for the most part we are easy going. We have chosen a spiritual path and usually that goes hand in hand of not being affected about what society may think of us = free spirited = easy going. I actually think of us more like elves in LOTR, we do our own thing but we are pretty skilled archers. Speaking of archers…
Here’s the shocker for those of you who don’t know. One of the most cherished texts in yoga, the Bhagavad Gita, or known simply as the Gita, is a story about war. And the main character is Arjuna, an archer. An archer with a moustache. Here’s a picture of him and Krishna (the avatar reincarnate of Vishnu).
So back to the Gita, the story of the conversation between Arjuna and Krishna on the brink of war. It’s a very long story, so forgive me if I miss a few points. In a nutshell, Arjuna seeks the advice of Krishna as he is about to go into battle against the evil cousin, Duryodhana. Arjuna and Duryodhana grew up in the same kingdom, being cousins and all, are related by blood. Since they grew up together, they knew the same people.
As Arjuna is about to charge into battle, he sees these faces on the other side – the faces of his teachers, friends and family. Naturally, he feels a sense of sadness and doesn’t want to kill them. He questions the entire war, the needless suffering of loved ones and what the outcome of war will bring.
Krishna begins to counsel him and the major themes of the Gita play out – Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga and Raja Yoga. Time seems to stand still while Krishna explains how the celestial universe works to Arjuna. Arjuna then comes to a higher realization of self and the universe.
In the end, he goes into battle and wins.
I have thought a hundred or more times about this text during many stages of my life. And each and every time, I find more and more meaning to it. Even the meaning changes every time I read a line or two from the Gita. It’s really something special.
It represents my most favourite thing about yogic philosophy. It teaches me about strength, not the muscle kind we get from chaturangas (which is great too), but the true individual strength. To be more precise, it teaches me about when to be strong and brave, when to surrender, when to hold on and when to let go.
It extends to people in your life. Being strong, knowing when to say, “No, enough is enough.” and also when to be soft-hearted and say, “I’m sorry. I made a mistake.” It extends to experiences in your life. Keeping your values and being honest with yourself and others, yet, knowing when to let go of experiences and events that we had or have no control of. It teaches you to move forward. Be more balanced.
The point of this post is to say, yoga is not just about non-violence (ahimsa) and peace. It’s much more than that, it’s both and it’s more. While I do practice ahimsa, I have also used yoga to fight my (metaphorical) battles. And equally as many times, I’ve used yoga to forgive. I’ve used it detach from negative influences in my life and to cherish great ones. I can be a cobra or a rabbit. I can be a warrior in battle or a humble warrior.
At the end of the day, my goal is to stay balanced, to choose my battles, to stay completely present and experience the world with a calm confidence. These teachings I have learnt in yoga teach me to continue to grow with grace. And that, to me, is true strength.