The word ‘equinox’ is Latin for ‘equal to night’. Twice a year, at the spring and autumn equinox day and night are equal in length. When I view the phenomenon of the autumnal equinox (today) with my yoga goggles on, I can’t help but think this is a powerfully symbolic time. For Hatha yogis, yoga is all about finding balance – between solar and lunar energies, for one. Solar energies corresponding to activities that are extroverted, strong, forceful and muscular and lunar activities being those that are more passive, cooling, restorative and introverted.
A time of equal balance between light and darkness; solar and lunar energies; a time to balance between the extroversion of summer and the introversion of the coming winter. All of this is reflected in ‘samatva’, a Sanskrit word that means evenness or equanimity – the quality of having a a balanced attitude and approach to life.
Here are some ways that you can play with evenness both on and off the mat:
Intention/Affirmation: “I respond with openness and equanimity (rather than reactivity).”
Breath: Sama Vritti (Even Breathing). Inspiration and Expiration last for the same amount of time.
Meditation: Mindfulness Meditation
On the Mat: Notice whether you have a tendency to over/under effort when you practice yoga postures. As a fun exercise, try ranking your effort on a 1-10 scale in each pose 1 = no effort; 10 = maximum possible effort. See if you can work at a 5 (balanced effort) in each pose.
Off the Mat: Allow the unknowable, uncontrollable nature of life to just be. Wherever you find yourself – whether in circumstances pleasant or unpleasant, remember that every challenging situation also has a gift and a lesson in it. You can’t know what the ultimate consequences of your current situation will be. Try to keep a balanced, open mind.
The 5th and final niyama is Ishvara Pranidhana. It means to bow or surrender to God.
Just know that the concept of God being referred to here is likely not the same concept of God that you are familiar with. This God doesn’t intervene in our lives, does not get angry, and does not have any kind of agenda. It exists as Pure Consciousness ... or Ultimate Reality ... and although it doesn't have any effect on our lives, it is omnipresent. It exists in all beings.
The great teacher Ram Dass once suggested that you "treat everyone you meet like God in drag" ... your accountant, your parents, the guy at the gas station, your Starbucks barista ... when you meet anyone, you are meeting with God. Treat them like you are meeting God for goodness' sake! When you recognize the same spark of divinity that resides in you resides in everyone, you wake up the to the reality that you are not separate from anything. We are connected.
At the end of each yoga class when we bow to one another and say 'Namaste', we put ourselves in touch with this idea. 'Namaste' means something like 'The divine light within me sees and bows to the divine light within you.' or 'When you and I bow to our true nature, we are one.'
Practicing Ishvara Pranidhana helps us to see past our own personal dramas and selfish tendencies by reminding us that we are part of something bigger.
Here are some ways you might practice Ishvara Pranidhana both on and off the mat:
Intention: "I acknowledge the spark of divinity in myself and others."
Meditation: Chant 'Om', the sound of all things in the universe; Ultimate Reality; Oneness; Unity
See video below.
On the Mat: Do a yoga nidra practice. Surrender to the moment.
Off the Mat: Treat everyone you meet like God in drag
Amanda Tripp, Yoga/body nerd and woman of a 1000 opinions