February | Urdhva Hastasana
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra II.30-31
Jati desha kala samaya-anavachinnah
Sarva bhauma mahavratam.
The different forms of self-control are avoiding harm to anyone, always telling the truth, never stealing from another, keeping sexual purity and overcoming possessiveness.
These forms of self control are mighty codes of conduct meant for people at every stage of their personal development.
They go beyond differences in race or social status; they go beyond the borders between countries; they go beyond what is modern, or old; they go beyond the various creeds and convictions.
“The first of the eight limbs of yoga is self-control, the ability in a sense to restrain ourselves from our more natural, lower instincts.”
One of our first dharma lessons during yoga teacher training was on the five yamas. Ideally, the yamas are a promise to help all beings everywhere, moment to moment, with each thought, word and action becoming offerings. These instructions for living can be seen as a universal commitment by yogis to value and encourage all forms of life.
Upward salute is the first movement from mountain pose after we begin our sun salutation. In this shape we embody the connection between earth and sky. I think of springing to action, mobilized by the force within – Prana, the manifestation of all creativity and that which animates us. Upward moving energy can be felt as we extend our arms overhead and lift our gaze in Urdhva Hastasana, specifically before and within the inhalation. The balancing reaction to this uplifting movement of subtle energy in the body is known as apana, which governs release and elimination. We find apana over and over again on exhale. Simultaneously, we can feel the downward force of apana while grounding our feet and firming our base through the legs in this posture. These opposing energies encompass the basic functions of life on every level.
The practice helps us to familiarize ourselves with our divine nature, to understand that we are all creators. As we progress, the practice begins to transform – what once may have simply been a physical diversion begins to take on a holistic approach to life and, oftentimes, a spiritual quality.
As we learn through the Bhagavad Gita, the true Yogi must always act,
especially when it seems most difficult,
especially where there is great injustice,
especially when life is at risk.
Let us all seek to be the earthly conduit of these divine principles of peace, honesty, purity, grace and compassion by always thinking, speaking and acting in our most courageous and holiest capacity. May our practice guide us always toward the highest.
–Allison Joy Phillips
Excerpt from The Essential Yoga Sutra: Ancient Wisdom for your Yoga
by Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally