One of the qualities of the yogi and yogini is their ability to lift themselves and others up. Just a few weeks ago in class, someone mentioned it was “blue Monday” which is apparently the statistically most depressing day of the year, where people find themselves stuck between the excesses of Christmas and the next pay cheque and the inevitable settling of bills.
However the yogi is independent of what yoga refers to as the play of opposites, the pull and push of ragas, likes and dwesha, dislikes. It is very easy to understand how in life these forces can bounce us backwards and forwards like being in a pinball machine. We rush after and desire somethings, while being repulsed by others, this influences our thoughts, emotions and actions and can in fact colour our whole experience of life.
This freedom that the yoga practitioner has comes primarily from the recognition that even though fulfilment and happiness are associated with external sources, the actual mental, emotive response is an internal one, “Happiness is an inside job” as one wit wrote!
The realisation of this means the yogi, can instead of being drawn to the external for this fulfilment, turn their attention back towards the source of these qualities of happiness, joy etc within themselves. Hence why pratyahara, the turning of the attention away from sense stimuli and the senses is such a central aspect of Hatha Yoga and its steps towards meditation.
This grants a real freedom for the Yogi. By this they can lift themselves up, turning all situations and experiences around, thus not letting these colour the inner feeling, or bhavana. Therefore not only can they lift themselves up, but others as well, whether communicating this to others by teaching or passing on the practices of yoga, or by their presence alone elevating those who they come into contact with. Again these are all very common experiences, think of the times when a bit of friendly advice has turned a situation around for you, or when something as simple as a warm smile from someone on the street brightens your day.
Of course the Yogi realising how we are influenced by these external forces inspires their actions and interactions with others, one beautiful mantra that conveys this is Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu,
which translates as
“May all beings everywhere be happy and free”