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What Everyday Life Lessons Can We Learn from The Bhagavad Gita

Whether you have read this epic spiritual text, or not, I will aim to break it down into easy chunks of how we can ALL learn something from its teachings.

And, confession, I have only listened to the Podcast version.

What is The Bhagavad Gita?

It is the one of the most important Hindu texts, translated from Sanskrit to English between the 5th and 2nd century BCE.

It is a great novel, narrated via a dialogue “between Arjuna, a warrior prince, and his charioteer, Lord Krishna. Whilst Arjuna doubts whether he should go into battle, Krishna explains that he must fulfill his dharma (duty) as a warrior. In his explanation, Krishna discusses the four classical schools of yoga; Jnana (the path of knowledge), Bhakti (the path of devotion), Karma (the path of action) and Raja (the path of meditation).”

The setting of a battlefield, is unusual for a spiritual text. However, practitioners have commented, that it is a metaphor for "the war within". The war being our inner struggles for understanding the self, when faced with ego and ignorance.

How is The Bhagavad Gita important within Yoga?

It is one of the most relatable and timeless yogic texts. During their conversation, Lord Krishna doesn’t encourage Arjuna to renounce his ‘normal’ life, and to live life as a Sage. He empathises with Arjuna, commenting that this life is difficult and unnecessary.

Ok, but let’s stop for a second…let’s just clarify what Yoga is.

Yoga means union, with the ultimate goal of achieving Moksha.

…FYI, Moksha is a transcendent state, that comes from being released from the cycling of rebirth.

For some, union, can be between the mind, body and soul. I know that this is what I bring into my personal practice, and encourage my students to do the same. Going deeper than this, is the realisation of the Self (I am not going to talk about the Self, as there's another journal that will dive deep into it)

What Yogic Philosophies do we learn about in The Gita?

After discusses the difficulties of a ‘Sage like life’ with Arjuna, Lord Krishna, goes on to discuss different Yogic philosophies, and how we can incorporate them in our everyday lives.

Ashtanga Yoga

Also known as The Eight Limbs of Yoga.

  1. Yama. This consists of five ethical principles: truthfulness, continence, nonviolence, non covetousness, and abstention from stealing

  2. Niyama. Consists of things like worship, cleanliness, contentment, austerity, and self-reflection.

  3. Asana. There is less focus on asana in The Gita, than The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (this is for another day!). There is mention of body postures to practice, where Krishna briefly explains the yoga of the body, asanas. But that’s it. With the amount of ASSana (queue laughing), we see on social media, you would have thought there would be much more.

  4. Pranayama. The how-to & benefits of pranayama are mentioned as “Shutting out all external sense objects, keeping the eyes and vision concentrated between the two eyebrows, suspending the inward and outward breaths within the nostrils, and thus controlling the mind, senses and intelligence, the transcendentalists aiming at liberation becomes free from desire, fear and anger. One who is always in this state is certainly liberated.”

  5. Pratyahara. This deals with the withdrawal of the senses, this is a big focus in The Bhagavad Gita. It is detailed, "as the tortoise draws its limbs within the shell." As mentioned before, it is not to fully renounce the world, but to withdraw attachment.

  6. Dharana. This is the teaching of spiritual concentration. Through mantra meditation, gazing at a yogic symbol, focusing on different parts of the body, you will start to practise dharana. All our senses help us engage in dharana, which leads to the final two limbs.

  7. Dhyana. So you’ve worked on your concentration (dharana), and all the other limbs, so you are now ready for meditation. At this point, meditation becomes effortless.

  8. Samathi. When you reach samathi, you will achieve self realisation. You will experience complete awareness and total consciousness, feeling as you have transcended the limitations of the body.

Karma Yoga

The path of selfless service. You might have seen your local yoga studio offering karma yoga (cleaning the studio etc) in exchange for a membership. We can all practice this in our daily lives; doing a good deed for someone, without asking for anything in return. Helping someone carry their shopping, drop in on an elderly neighbour, volunteer at a homeless shelter etc

Jnan Yoga

The path of knowledge. Krishna advises Arjuna to seek a guru to learn from, “The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.”

Bhakti yoga

The path of devotion and love. You can see this in many religious communities, the rituals they take part in to honour their gods or gurus. Within yoga, you may practice Bhakti through devotional chanting, an altar with a spiritual figure or a kirtan session.

Here’s 5 Ways To Adapt These Lessons Into Our Every Day Life

If you’re like me, you have a tinge of guilt every time you skip asana practice. We have been so accustomed to scrolling through social media, seeing incredible yoga poses and accounts where it seems ‘asana is life’.

I do think modern yoga, naturally gravitates to movement, and we probably need it. We aren’t working in the fields, walking miles to get water, building houses by hand etc. But if you are just moving, or only focusing on vinyasa, can we say that we are practising yoga?

That is not a question for me to answer, but it is interesting to muse on.

So, how can we infuse yoga into our daily lives?

1. Do good deeds.

There’s a caveat, though, you must remove yourself from the outcome. Don’t do the good deed for any kind of reward, do it from an altruistic place.

2. Don’t live for external validation.

I am talking social media people!

3. Be kind to your mind.

Choose to use nice words when you look in the mirror, or make a mistake. Allow yourself to practise Bhakti yoga internally, as well as externally.

4. Sloowwww down.

Sit and observe. Sit and breathe. Sit and meditate. Anything but sitting and distracting yourself by scrolling. We all do it, but the least we can do is try to reduce it. Learn to sit in the awkwardness of doing nothing, allowing yourself to finally give in and appreciate it.

5. Learn to accept and embrace change.

Life is every changing. Our perceived luck flows in ebbs and waves, with our happiness usually moving to the same rhythm. But when we release attachment and expectations of external situations, we learn to live in the moment and accept anything that comes out way with slightly more enthusiastic open arms.

Final Thoughts

Gives you a bit of food for thought, next time you’re in Downward Facing Dog, right?!

If you truly want to embrace yoga into your life, expand your mind passed what you do on your mat.

Take time to observe your surrounds.

How your surrounds influence your internal world.

And how your internal world, impacts how you feel; physically and mentally.

If you’re feeling disconnected, not feeling content or keep wishing for something more to happen in your life; then you probably aren’t fully embracing yoga in your life.

And do you know what, that's ok.

Let go.

Let go of judgement, and treat yourself with kindness.

But for the long term, if you are committed to living a life of lightness, choose to focus a bit more on these teachings and less on how many chaturangas you can do.

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