On Yoga and Liberation

“Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu”

May all beings everywhere be happy and free and may the thoughts words and actions of my own life contribute in someway to the happiness and freedom for all.

- The Mangala Mantra

The yogic path is many things to many people, there are times when it’s appropriate to focus on asana to sooth, stretch and heal the body; and times when we focus on pranayama to calm the nervous system; and times where it’s helpful to be reminded of practicing the yamas and niyamas such as satya- truthfulness and svadiyaya- self-study.

Then, there’s the liberation bit…

The 8 limbed yogic path as outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali charts a progression towards Samadhi / enlightenment / the souls’ absolute liberation.

But what does that really look like, in practice?  I have read in the yoga texts that Samadhi is where consciousness is merged with the Divine, liberated from attachments in the world and from the mind’s ‘chitta vrittis’ (mental activity). Hmmm, so….  I’m not there, and I likely won’t ever be but while I’m busy teaching asana and not being enlightened, I like to ponder what liberation might look like here on earth, amongst the grittiness of humanity? So, I ask myself how my work can be of service for the freedom of others; I wonder if liberation is a state we can have fleeting experiences of in our daily life, rather than limiting it to Samadhi, where we drift off into a sea of collective consciousness?

Since the experience of having a human body creates an illusion of separateness, we feel righteous in fighting for our own individual sovereignty, based on a fear that we do not have enough to share around. In contemplating this I realized I personally hold A limiting (false) belief that when I give, my time, money and effort I end up with less. But, this is not always the case. By creating a mindset of abundance and practicing aparigraha ‘non-grasping’ I can begin to trust that I DO have enough, for myself, my family and more to share around. This as been hugely freeing for me as I realized how limiting my mindset of ‘lack’. Sometimes it really is as simple as shifting our perspective to practice gratitude for what we do have so we can experience a sense of the abundance of life!

But beyond experiencing fleeting moments of freedom in my own life, I also begin to wonder how my life can affect the freedom of others and so it’s no surprise I'm spurred to action by The Mangala Mantra- Lokha Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu. This mantra is the heart of yoga for me. I was introduced to it through Samadhi Yoga in Newtown (now Jivamukti Sydney) and I feel it is more than a prayer, it speaks to my sense of responsibility to take action, because if we are interconnected life forms on this planet- how can I possibly be truly free while my actions and words, consciously or unconsciously limit the freedom of others?

And so though some deep personal questioning I’ve come to see that of all the challenges facing the world today, the one closest to my heart is the abuse of human rights; specifically women and children, specifically slavery and human trafficking. To sell someone as a slave, for me, feels like the ultimate crime against humanity – it objectifies, oppresses and dehumanizes.

There are 20-30 million slaves world wide and every year, over two million children are trafficked and sold into sex slavery – some as young as three years old. These children do not grow up with security and safety with a loving family, they instead are regularly subject to physical and sexual abuse, starvation, neglect and with the high price on virginity, young girls undergo repeat surgeries to reconstruct their hymens so they can be resold as virgins.

So I’ve decided to step up and join Be Free Yoga as an Ambassador for Freedom. My Hub Yoga class on the first Wednesday of the month is now a "Practice for Freedom Class" and funds raised will go to to Project Futures- an Australian based organization who raise awareness and funding for programs dedicated to combating human trafficking and sexual exploitation globally.

If you feel strongly about these issues you can contribute on my Practice for Freedom Fundraising Page and if you are a yoga teacher, wanting to make a difference you can teach a Practice For Freedom classes as well. Simply contact Naomi at Be Free Yoga and become an Ambassador for Freedom.