There is a beautiful traditional Sanskrit chant that captures the feelings of loss and the aspiration of hope.
Please lead me from the unreal to the Real.
Please lead me from the darkness to the Light.
Please lead me from death to Immortality.
Peace, peace, and peace to all.
This past year has been a global experience of losses. I could recount them here but I would only be stating the obvious. You know personally what your 2020 losses were but what makes this year exceptional is the fact that whatever you have lost has also been lost by so many others. Your experience is not unique, not this year.
Fortunately, traditional yoga philosophy offers many guidelines to use during challenging times. A potent set of principles are found in the second chapter of the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. These are the Klesha, the afflictions.
Here they are with brief comments. If you spend a minute or two with each one, I predict that you'll discover how they relate to you and to us in 2020 and onward through 2021.
Avidya is translated as spiritual ignorance and the suffering that results when we don't acknowledge the mysteries of life and the awesome forces of nature. Countering avidya promotes adopting a 'big picture' point of view that includes everyone and everything as interconnected spiritually and interdependent relationally.
Asmita translates as egoism. When I live as if I am the only one who matters, I am afflicted by asmita. Healthy self esteem is essential for inner peace but selfishness is not.
Raga is translated as attachment to pleasure. Pleasure takes many forms. In 2020 we've discovered our attachments to gathering with friends, going to a restaurant or movie theater, attending an in person yoga class ... name your pleasure here ____. We know we're attached to our pleasures when we are denied them.That upset feeling is raga.
Dwesha translates as attachment to displeasure. Hmm, what's that? Every time in 2020 you declared that you can't stand wearing a mask and expressed that repeatedly to friends and family, dwesha was active. OK, saying it once is fine, but can you let go of your need to constantly complain or express your opinions about something you don't like?
Abhinivesha translates as fear of death. This one often has the commentary, "The wise ones are also afflicted with this." With 2020 and 2021 in mind, we can use this organic fear of death to inspire us to live consciously, patiently and ethically with each other now with the goal of preventing deaths caused by the pandemic.
Even though you might be new to yoga training and focused on the postures, these principles and others are the true foundation of Yoga practice, including asana. Adopting the kleshas as a way to process your motivations and feelings can help you make decisions about what to do next. When you are being honest about what afflicts you, you can counter it with an opposite action, including not acting or reacting.
For example, if you feel depressed when you can't go to a studio for a class with your yoga friends, you could practice at home. It will feel different but your practice could be revelatory, personal and even inspiring. Without the external motivators (the teacher and the other students), you'll feel your body directly and hear the guidance of your inner voice clearly. You might even linger in that nourishing silence at the end of savasana, resting pose, instead of quickly vacating your mat. Making these kinds of conscious changes with sincerity and acceptance is to genuinely live your yoga on and off the mat.