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Using Yoga to Ride Life's Highs and Lows

Updated: Feb 19, 2018

Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Douglas (Vishal) Brook writes that Yoga can help you detach so you can live life less troubled by what you may see and hear.

“Do not take life’s experiences too seriously and above all do not let them hurt you for in reality they are nothing but dream experiences. If circumstances are bad and you have to bear them, do not make them part of yourself. Play your part in life but never forget that it is only a role.”- Praramahansa Yogananda[1].

If we are always attached to all the events in life in the material world, we are thrown around like a ship in the storm. If we can be detached with Yoga, we are like a ship in the eye of a cyclone. The drama of the world is raging all around us yet within we are calm.

Vairagya[2] – (non-attachment, detachment or ‘non-neediness’) is an important aspect of Yoga and if we are to see existence as it truly is, we need to step back and see the bigger picture; to be a witness instead of being attached and involved.

Detachment does not mean being aloof. It means being established in your centre so you are free of being swayed by life’s ups and downs. Then you can see life as a game, enjoy it and be an inspiration to others.

Experiencing life like this can be fun, like the experience of watching a thrilling movie. It is entertaining watching all the dramas that the characters in a movie go through. In real life, if we can detach and be connected to the calm of the inner self the problems in life are not so bad – they may even be an adventure.

Just as when we look back on a difficult experience and recount it to friends and laugh about it. That is because we have detached from the experience a little.

If we could be detached in the actual situation we may be able to think clearly and even help uplift others who are depressed and lost.

Yoga is the union of the individual self with the higher self and we need to detach from our individual self and see the big picture to get to that realization and be one with both.

Ashtanga Yoga is a great way to practice detachment. As we move from pose to pose we can detach and watch our body, mind and breath. Keeping the breath balanced allows us to stay in the more detached state even through the highs and lows of the practice; from hand stand to forward bend; from sun salute to Savasana (rest at the end).

If the breath becomes strained we may be becoming attached to mentally conquering the practice – perhaps fighting the practice or becoming caught up in it. But with detachment the practice is calm through the highs and lows.

One of the main effects of the practice is that it makes it easier to lie down in Savasana and let go. We let go of the body and detach from it. As we relax and let go of the physical body we also let go of the material world and step back from it – we are able to feel a deeper connection to our higher self, our soul and the universal consciousness.

[1] Paramahansa Yogananda (5 January 1893 – March 7, 1952), was an Indian yogi and Guru who introduced the world to the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his book, Autobiography of a Yogi.

[2] Vairagya – which means non -attachment, detachment or “non-neediness” is an important aspect of Yoga. The term, which also translates as dispassion, is a Sanskrit word from Hindu philosophy found in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Bhagavad Gita. In the Yoga Sutras detachment and practice are the key elements to restraining the fluctuations of the mind. If we are to see existence as it truly is, we need to step back and see the bigger picture – to be a witness instead of being attached and involved.


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