On July 9, we celebrated the 109th Anniversary of the birth of Bishnu Charan Ghosh, a yogi master teaching and documenting yoga’s ability to heal the body. Bishnu came from an amazing family of yogis that included his older brother Paramahansa Yogananda, one of the most influential spiritual teachers of all time. Yogananda is world renowned for having written one of the greatest pieces of spiritual literature, “Autobiography of a Yogi”. He was also the founder of the Self Realization Fellowship Centers, which are now located around the world.
Members, you are extremely fortunate to have discovered this yoga now. Did you know that directly connected and just a generation beneath Bishnu Charan Ghosh and Paramahansa Yogananda, sits Bikram Choudhury? Bikram’s guru IS Bishnu Charan Ghosh and the founder of this 26 posture series. If you have read any of Bikram’s articles or books, you know that he speaks endlessly about his love and admiration for his teacher, Bishnu. And, it was Bishnu that gave Bikram the karmic task to “finish his work” and take this yoga that you and I do each day to the western world. I am very thankful to Bikram for his decision to do accept Bishnu’s challenge, as his decision has so changed my life. Bikram jokes that he never had the chance to ask his guru how long he has to keep working to spread this yoga. Because he received no answer, he continues.
“Yoga keeps you immune to diseases, restores the body’s vitality even at an old old age.” –Bishnu Charan Ghosh.
“Never too sick, never too bad, never too old to start from scratch and do yoga once again.” –Bikram Choudhury.
“Man comes here [on Earth] for the sole purpose of learning to break the cords that bind his soul. Disease, failure, negation, greed, jealousy – break these bonds now. You are in a cocoon of your own bad habits, and you must be freed to spread its wings of beautiful divine qualities,” Paramahansa Yogananda.
Bikram Yoga San Jose is currently celebrating six months of being in our new studio, our new home. Our mission at BYSJ has always been to bring more yoga to more people. Building a big new facility was a key component to realize more of this mission. To date, we’ve introduced this yoga to 1,500 new people! That’s 1,500 more discoveries into the power of a yoga practice. That’s huge, and a contribution to the world-wide attention yoga is getting. Yoga has now become a booming industry with a whopping 16 million practitioners! Bikram and other wonderful leaders of various yoga disciplines have succeeded in creating a place for yoga in our western world that will endure and continue to grow.
To know that so many people are doing yoga tells me that it’s no longer okay to live with suffering in whatever fashion it manifests. We, all of us, regardless of where we live, no matter our race or age, simply want more out of life. In most cases, doing just one 90 minute hot yoga class gives you a good indication that you are in the right place to heal and in fact, become the “more” that you seek. Bikram has so many quotable quotes. I love them all, and occasionally can hear Bikram screaming them out as I practice: “In the west, you have everything but you have nothing. In the east, we have nothing but we have everything. You are materially rich and spiritually bankrupt.”
He is basically stating in blunt terms that we live with the effects of a programmed mind. We are “slaves to the bad habits.” Yoga gives us the tools to know our true selves and live authentically. It enables us to become comfortable in facing and shedding what doesn’t work. We wake up and shake up “maya” – the illusions of the mind.
I once heard that we spend the first 30 years of our lives carrying this heavy black sack filled with pieces of ourselves that we don’t want to look at. Then, we spend the next 30 years taking these things out one by one to learn from them and accept them as being part of who we are.
Brene Brown does an amazing presentation on TED called the Power of Vulnerability. I just love this piece and have watched it over the years several times. If you haven’t seen it, tune in here.
In brief, this piece shows how Brown has arrived – after years of research with thousands of stories, including doing therapy on herself – at some amazing conclusions about what makes a ‘whole hearted” person, a term she phrased. In her words, a whole hearted person lives from a sense of worthiness, has the courage to be imperfect, is compassionate towards themselves first, feels a sense of connection because of their authenticity to be who they are, and – the most important component in what makes a wholehearted person – they embrace vulnerability.
Yikes! For most of us, we can stop right there! Vulnerability, as our culture impresses upon us, means weakness, and is to be avoided at all costs! It is the dis-ease that made us stuff away those things we didn’t want to see in ourselves. (The black sack we are carrying.) In the world we live in, we attempt to numb ourselves against vulnerability. We deny. No wonder that we are the most in debt, obese, medicated, and addicted country in the world. The result of denial is suffering.
And Ms. Brown further emphasizes a very important point: we cannot selectively numb emotion. We cannot numb out pain and not numb out joy, too. We cannot decide to feel happiness but shut out sadness. One goes, they all go. So, in order to feel joy and happiness we have to make room to feel angry and sad.
And I believe there is a movement occurring right now that approves of being vulnerable and I am happy to see it. Look at the popularity of all the reality shows out there. We are drawn to watching people struggle with real issues and empathize with those struggles while rooting for these folks to find a way to overcome. Because these folks are us.
The Olympics are about to begin, and truly, there is no better vehicle to give us a human story that shows adversity and triumph. These world-class athletes reveal their full vulnerability in taking on the challenge and adversity voluntarily, in front of the whole world! And that vulnerability is inspiring. It makes us all connect!
Perhaps there is no coincidence that the ever growing popularity of yoga is aligning at a time when we are giving ourselves permission to be vulnerable. The yoga room is a safe place to turn to in practicing vulnerability. We allow ourselves to struggle in and out of a pose; we allow ourselves to be seen in strange shapes without much clothing; we manage the criticism going on in our heads with silence and breath. As our founding yogis teach us from a long lineage, with yoga we deepen the knowledge of who we are and learn that being vulnerable is necessary on the path of our self-discovery. It’s ironic to think that the more vulnerable we can allow ourselves to be, the less suffering we will experience. It sets us up to live in truth. That’s freedom! Happy July!