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August 2021 - Yoga and Well Being

Dear Yoga Friends,

Just when we thought it was safe to go back in the water, the so-called delta variant rears its ugly head. The Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco was scheduled to resume in-person classes last week, but instead of that, we received yet another lesson on the unpredictability of this pandemic.

A few weeks back, when it became clear that the return to normalcy was beginning to stall out, I was fortunate to hear an interview of the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who served under Obama, was asked to resign by Trump, refused, was fired, and was then rehired by Biden. When asked about his biggest concern for our society's health, he put mental health front and center. When asked about the legacy he wished to leave, he said that addressing mental health is a priority, but that he would like to see an emphasis on well-being. Imagine that. He then described the importance of moving from a work-centered culture to a people-centered culture. Radical? No. Inspiring? Yes. How wonderful to see people like this in leadership positions.

My mind of course went immediately to yoga and the power of yoga to enhance our well-being physically, mentally, and emotionally. Most of what we do during our day engages and revs up the mind. Yoga's unique qualities stem from a contrarian goal: calming the mind, as described by Sutra I.2 (translation from Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by B.K.S. Iyengar):

Yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness.

When you practice yoga you may not feel such a cessation right off the bat, but at least a slowing or calming can be felt immediately, as a result of focus, direction of intelligence to healthy actions, and breath awareness. The result of effective yoga practice is a state of equanimity and balance, as articulated by Sutra II.48 (translation also from Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by B.K.S. Iyengar):

From then on, the sadhaka is undisturbed by dualities.

I was fortunate enough to get away the past couple of weeks to some relatively quiet areas of Idaho. One spot was called "Balanced Rock". Millions of years of erosion had narrowed the base of a huge rock, leaving it floating in space, a tangible reminder of the sense of balance and calm that yoga makes so available. Any perceived heaviness in this moment does not have to weigh on us. As always, would love to hear your thoughts and observations!




* Livestream classes: noon-1:15pm Tuesdays (mixed level) & noon-1:30pm Thursdays (intermediate) at IYISF

Chad Balch