Posted by: Joyce T | 14 April 2012

Yogini’s Notebook – Embracing the Householder Practice

When I started practicing yoga nearly 8 years ago, I started with the asanas, the physical poses.  Practice meant spending at least an hour a day on the mat.  As I learned about pranayama, meditation, and the other 5 limbs of yoga, I tried to work them in, study them, and understand their role in my life.  I was single and without children, and working in a job that have very flexible hours, so I could take an hour here or there to attend a class, I could attend kirtan or retreats and fully embrace a wide-ranging practice.  I started reading the Yoga Sutra and many of the classic texts and great teachers, hungry to learn as much as I could.

In the last 8 years, I’ve gotten married, moved overseas, changed careers and had a son.  Each of these changes has improved various aspects of my life, but they have also constrained my ability to practice yoga as I once did, with a mat-centered practice.  It is also difficult to meditate on a schedule or go on retreats, or any of the other luxuries I had in that previous existence, especially with a small child and a job with regular hours.  At first I was frustrated – I felt I was losing touch with yoga, or somehow not as dedicated as I was.  And then I remembered the readings I had encountered about yoga in various life stages.  According to the texts, life ideally is spent in four stages.  The second stage, which ideally lasts between the ages of 25-50, is called grihastha, or life as a householder.  To be a grihastha means living in the world and practicing around daily life.  It is understood that this is the time of raising children, of working, of attending to the needs of the daily world, and not a time of retreat from the world.

For a while now I have been meditating on what it means to be a grihastha. What I think it means for me is that here is a balance challenge, more difficult than any asana – how does one balance spiritual practice and daily life?  It is so much easier to think about the yamas and niyamas on the mat, to practice finding equanimity in a quiet room where you know no one will disturb you for the prescribed time.  It is much more difficult to find a way to teach and demonstrate-through-living ahimsa, or non-violence, with a two-year-old stuck in mid-tantrum. It is challenging to practice santosa, or contentment when gridlocked in rush-hour traffic.  And yet at the end, the only way to journey through the week sanely, is to embrace the yamas and niyamas. More than anything, it is about practicing Isvara pranidhana, which means remembering there is something greater in the universe than one’s own self, and then most importantly, surrendering to it.

As I write this, it’s a weekend day, my family is out and I have a few precious minutes, which I chose to use writing this blog.  I view this piece as today’s meditation, which I offer up to you and say – here is where I am, here is my journey, come walk with me and know we are all in this together.  My intention for today is to get through this day in a way that honors myself and my practice of Isvara pranidhana.


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