International Yoga Day

by | Jun 20, 2023

Every year, the International Day of Yoga is celebrated, coinciding with the summer solstice which symbolically represents the perfect, ideally perfect, balance between opposites. A magical moment, of perfect balance of opposites, of light and dark.

To follow, immediately after the text of the Gayatri Mantra in bold, what Yoga means to me, in relation to our ethical commitment as an ecological association.

Oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ
tát savitúr váreṇyaṃ
Bhárgo Devásya dhīmahi
dhíyo yó naḥ pracodáyā

“Everything on earth, above, below and around, comes from one source in continual renewal: if my thoughts, actions, and words reflected the total understanding of this unity, I would be the peace I am seeking.”

In this umpteenth international day of Yoga (wanted by that West where in our days it is lived and marketed in a predominant way compared to where it began to “take shape”, evolve and even involversi, or in India, ) I would like here to attempt a reflection on what in our tradition means that only “always renewable source” to which the aforementioned Gayatri Mantra refers.

Formalized for the first time thanks to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, a set of sutras precisely, or very synthetic verses (Sutra is often translated with aphorism) and equally dense that outline the philosophical system of Yoga, there is one (and only one!) definition given to explain the posture of our body (sitting) in which to practice Yoga.

It is found in the second book of the Sutras (this compendium consists of 196 sutras and only one talks about the practice that physical positions!!), the 47th: Sthira Sukham Asanam

My personal, simple interpretation: our posture, to be Yoga, can only be stable and comfortable.
I would like to add “in all circumstances”: during any physical practice, but especially in our everyday existence.
Daily life, made up of moments, which we more or less have the pleasure of experiencing, of living.
It is in this non-duality of opposites (pain and joy, selfishness and generosity, kindness and carelessness, well-being and malaise, comfort and stress …) that lies that source, that stable and secure center, comfortable and rich in potential, from which every possible type of phenomenon, from the “grossest to the most ethereal” branches, expands, manifests.

Well, that center is also in us, it constitutes us, literally; But, how does the practice of such awareness pass through our body?
Continually bringing attention back to that permanent center of gravity, that physical, emotional, psychic, mental, intuitive center; in continuous movement, in constant interrelation with the outside, but also stable.
Healthy, strong, firm, ready and at the same time a good, comfortable, comfortable, relaxed or at the same time, not tense space. Ready to action, but also able to rest, still, delicate, gentle, but firm harmony in relation to the external environment.
Made of people, animals, in short… Nature!

Being “sitting comfortably” always, in whatever Asana or position we are practicing: driving, at the restaurant, in bed, at the sea or in the mountains, in the city or in a river.
As if observing ourselves from the outside, inside our body (an energetic body, emotional mental intuitive etc.) we were there: what we are, sitting comfortably within ourselves.
How do we sit comfortably in ourselves and why should we?

The practice of sitting comfortably implies a part of oneself that is stable, neutral, regardless of the positions in which one finds oneself during the more or less “normal” daily life.
Who we are, what we practice without a landing mat under our feet.
In our everyday lives.
In the activities we do, in the relationships we “tighten”, a comfortable posture in ourselves, a stable and safe center from which everything moves in terms of physical movements, thought movements, emotional movements (there is nothing static!)

We constantly have the opportunity to remind ourselves of that source of stability that pulsates within us, which allows us to be at ease sometimes in situations that have very little easy, to “remain” comfortable even in the face of the fact that often things are not as we would like them to be.
And sometimes this remaining “still” despite everything is the best we can do…
When often, or too often, life imposes reactions on us, we can always try to act!

This is why I am here to talk about Yoga and to be part of this ecological association, with a beating heart on the island of Elafonisos.
The environment that surrounds me reflects, full of beauty, that pure source, empty but full of life, of energy.
That’s why, of course, I take care of it, practicing.
Trying to respect it despite my presence and having literally built “house and shop”.

Despite my laziness, my times, my certainties and my doubts, my arrogance and my good intentions, I try to return to that neutral, pure and dense center, preserving its external correspondence: collecting plastic from the ground, from the beach so soft and welcoming, from the water so crystal clear.
I insist on getting more bins with lids where we can throw our waste; More workers who take care of collection, I try to talk and practice together with the locals (mainly Greeks, Pakistanis and Bulgarians).
Surely I feel pain but also anger and certainly concern when I see thrown with a butt into the sea, when I see bags of waste deliberately placed between the cedars on the beach, or other materials in the countryside or in the land that in summer becoming more and more arid.

When cars and other heavy vehicles park directly on their roots.
When people don’t notice.
But I keep collecting.
And I’m not alone!!!!
This is also Yoga.

With love, Raffaella Valentini
Om Shanti