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Showing posts from February, 2014

The Triple A's of Identity

There are three words in Yoga philosophy that I like to call the Triple A's of Identity: Atman, Ahamkara and Asmita. All three of these words come up when we're posing the eternal question, "Who am I?" 
First let's dig them out of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and define them: 
Atman: This is the Sanskrit word for the true self, the inner self, or what some people call the soul. Yogis believe it to be the most real and enduring part of us. 
Ahamkara: The literal translation is the "I maker," that which gives the sense of a separate existence. It is your own distinct entity, appearing, thinking and acting in the world. It is somewhat close to the Western concept of "ego," and to live in this world, we need to have some sense of our self that is part of a healthy ego. However, the ahamkara is distinct from atman. 
Asmita: This word has a more negative connotation than ahamkara, and it literally means "the false self," or "the thing othe…

The Yoga Pendulum

Here in the West, we live in a culture of extremes. The ideal we are taught is the maximum benefit for the maximum number of people; be all you can be; go to your edge; supersize your meals; give yourself an energy boost; a flavor boost; an extreme makeover; be the biggest winner, or the biggest loser. Max everything out. Do it big. Go long.

Last week I attended a yoga retreat led by Judith Hanson Lasater, someone who has been teaching yoga since the year I was born. I took away many gems from her teaching, and I listened well when she talked to us about extremes. Many of us bring our penchant for extremes to our yoga mats. We may come to yoga because we are already flexible and we really want to max out those splits or see how deep we can go with our backbends. Yoga becomes about the asana (postures) and how extremely well we execute them. Many of us get hurt this way, and end up with overuse injuries. Why do we do this? And why do we push so hard in our culture in general? Judith g…