Living Yoga – Responsibility, Challenges and Ethics

I describe myself as spiritual, although if asked I usually say that I am drawn towards Buddhism over other beliefs. As such, my personal ‘Code of Ethics’ comes from the Five Precepts, which I describe as ‘living respectfully’ – respecting my mind, body and soul, and the mind body and soul of others. That means not taking what is not mine to take – which includes possessions and life, avoiding stimulants and substances that are not helpful to my body, speaking the truth and speaking kindly, and respecting to sacred act of sex.

The biggest challenge for me is defining “stimulants and substances that are not helpful to my body”. For me this obviously involves alcohol and recreational drugs, both of which I don’t take anyway (that’s not the challenging bit!), but I also consider things like caffeine (major challenge…) and junk food/snacks (I do like a naughty snack sometimes…) to be things that aren’t helpful to my body. In respecting my body and my mind, I try to avoid these things… Where I can, I buy organic and made things fresh. But while I’d love to say I am perfect, there is most definitely room for improvement… I really enjoy a hot cup of coffee. Really. It’s fabulous. I feel like I should avoid it, I don’t feel it contributes anything to my body, but boy, it’s a little indulgence I really enjoy…

- moving inwards - [a blog of yogic living] | Living Yoga - Responsibility, Challenges and Ethics

Ahem, where was I…

Respectful living. Yes. I also eat meat. Not a lot, and my family and I are working on cutting down in an effort to eliminate the meat from our diet. We have reduced our consumption of red meat, something we do not eat much of anyway. We are working through recipes and finding vegetarian meals we all enjoy – I have been substituting beans, lentils, and vegetables in the place of mince for regular meals. I feel, personally, that being and eating vegetarian is really the way I should be living. To be honest, I really do feel better eating vegetarian meals, I don’t feel as ‘heavy’ afterwards. But having a partner who doesn’t necessarily want to cut out *all* meat (and also having a 5-year-old daughter who needs options she’ll actually eat) it’s a commitment that takes time and adjustment to explore vegetarian recipes and find the balance that works for us.

I think also, on a global scale, huge challenges arise when I become more informed about certain ideas/practices that occur throughout the world and how they impact on me – for example, child slavery, the destruction of animals and habitat for products such as palm oil, and large destructive and unethical companies such as Nestle and Monsanto. There are always new challenges as more companies are exposed. In my mind, buying products that come from unethical practices is basically the same as outright supporting the act, so I try to boycott these products and support ethical productions. This brings about a whole new challenge – the financial impact can sometimes be really difficult, especially when there is an exceptionally large gap – even though I know that this gap is because of cheap practices that destroy lives and the environment, I unfortunately have to consider our budget – we do not just spend frivolously, so there is not a lot of room for improvement to make space for a purely ethical trolley every week. I do try, and I am aware. The best way is to try and avoid most pre-packaged foods (which are usually much more expensive anyway), so at the moment I feel that the efforts I’m making are positive.

My intentional yoga practice so far has been mostly physical asana practice and meditation. In reading more about the eight limbs of yoga, I can see that the way I live and my spiritual beliefs do align closely with the eight limbs, so I guess I have ‘unintentionally’ been practicing yoga on a spiritual level as well as a physical level. Living respectfully, to others and to myself, practicing physically – asana and pranayama, mindfulness and meditation. I feel that all of these things work to connect me with what I describe as ‘the energy of the universe’ (or the ‘divine’ or ‘God’, as other people describe it).

Incorporating this into the classroom seems like it might be tricky. My experience as a yoga student is that many people come to yoga to ‘do yoga’. Classes are often a mix of mostly new and beginning students with a few regular or advanced students. Some people also have little to no idea that yoga has a spiritual side. Some are aware that yoga and spirituality are interconnected, but don’t realise that it is not a religion unto itself (or even necessarily connected to a particular religion, even though the origins are connected to India, and usually to Hinduism or Buddhism). So I think it poses a challenge that requires some flexible and creative thinking – to cater for the students who need a lot of introductory information to the philosophy of yoga, but also extend of the understanding that some students will already have!

[Interesting side note – as an early childhood educator I have had more than one parent approach me and tell me that they have a religious objection to yoga and requested that I don’t include basic yoga in the classroom (it consisted of some fun yoga games and/or relaxation and calming meditation), or that I exclude their child from the practice. THAT is an interesting predicament to be in! ]

[Image courtesy of tiverylucky at]

-Journal Entry #2: Living Yoga – Responsibility, Challenges and Ethics-

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