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THE BIG BOOK OF YOGA: CAVEAT MEDITOR

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So if you want to steal, or lie, the Yogis would say, "Go ahead! We're telling you now, it's not a very good idea for your Yoga practice (and it doesn't seem to create much happiness or harmony in the world around you either, for that matter), but if you need to learn the hard way, then go out and give it a try, if you must." There's not as much of a sense of condemnation, or blame, when we speak about purity in Yoga.

Rather, according to Yoga, to live a pure life is to be in line with those things that make it easiest to grow harmoniously as a person.

And what are these ways of purity, exactly? The major lifestyle recommendations are found in the practices of Yama and Niyama (discussed in Chapter 2). These are the basics (don't lie, don't steal, don't create violence, etc.). You can find these foundational tenets listed in Hatha Yoga Pradipika, as well as Yoga Sutra1. The Gheranda Samhita makes a big deal out of eating a proper diet2, too - making sure that the food you're eating is light and agreeable, choosing mostly fresh foods, being careful not to over-eat, and so on. Following the old maxim of "You are what you eat", if you're trying to practice Yoga and you're eating a bunch of junk food, then you're essentially working against yourself. Same goes for consumption of most mood-altering substances, no matter how much fun they may be! Drinking alcohol or coffee, smoking cigarettes, or taking other drugs (be they pharmaceutical or recreational), all create varying degrees of agitation in the mind and body. Again, it's not to say that it makes you a bad person if you have a glass of wine with dinner now and then - it's just a bit more work you've set out for yourself on the Yoga mat the next day, is all. Another way of thinking about this idea of purity, is simply that all of our actions have consequences. The more we choose actions that create harmonious consequences, the more smoothly we sail along the flow of life.

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Caveat #2: Find a good teacher

Every single classical text on Yoga begins with some variation on the same basic message: "If you want to succeed in Yoga, the most important thing is to find a good teacher." Sounds good - but this is more easily said than done! Especially in today's world, where Yoga teachers are everywhere, and there are dozens of schools, systems, and variations of this ancient art, how to know what to look for, and whom to trust?

The influx of spiritual teachers from the East in the 1960s and 70s was largely responsible for bringing Yoga into the Western spotlight. Unfortunately, many of those same teachers also became involved in scandals involving sex, money, and power, and when these scandals were eventually uncovered, they really ruined the concept of a guru, or spiritual guide, for a lot of people. So what happened? In short, what these students were missing (and what some of the teachers themselves may not have really understood) was the reality that human development happens along different lines3. Just because some people are very intellectually advanced, for example, doesn't also mean that they are at the same level of sophistication with their emotional, moral, or aesthetic development.

In the same way, it's possible to be very highly advanced in spiritual practice, and at the same time to be completely unprepared to deal with other aspects of life. Take a celibate Yogi from India, in a culture where it's often taboo for women to even speak to male spiritual practitioners, and put him in the middle of Los Angeles or New York City, where sexuality is much more flagrant, and where it's not at all uncommon (albeit relatively frowned-upon) for students and teachers to engage in intimate relationships...how can you expect anyone coming from that background - no matter how practiced in meditation - to be prepared to handle such a situation with integrity? The short answer is, you may have such an expectation - but if history is any indicator, it doesn't seem to be a very realistic way of

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