Three Pillars of Yoga By Swami Krishnapremananda

This short article draws from three pillars of Yoga that are directly pertinent to the present uncertain and changing times.

Firstly, yoga practice holds the promise of many things, but key amongst them at present is that of a refuge; finding some quality time and space daily in which we can gain some space from current affairs, family issues and responsibilities. Even a little time spent on the yoga mat and cushion can put us in touch with this sense of refuge. For example, by exploring yogic postures which bring the body back into alignment, harmonising our internal energy pathways; simple pranayama practices which can calm and energise our system, or simply bring us back home to the present moment through breath awareness; meditation and chanting bring more spaciousness to the mind, thereby releasing the heart; moments or times of relaxation/ Yoga Nidra offer the body and mind the blessing of deeply letting go. The problems of life do not just magically disappear, but our capacity to handle them is enhanced through releasing into such a refuge each day through simple yoga practice. 

As the Bhagavad Gita says – ‘No effort is ever lost and even a little practice can protect us from fear’ (2:40)

A second pillar is that of gratitude. We will always have ideas for how life can be improved. Yet consciously cultivating a sense of gratitude for what we have – time in nature, simple gifts of everyday life, the food on our plate and so on – helps to soften the heart and lift our spirits. The glass is seen as half full. We are often programmed to have a negativity bias, which puts more weight on what we do not have, or our problems in life. Gratitude counteracts this, shifting our perspective, and reminding us of the maybe small yet valuable blessings we already have. 

Alongside the previous two, the third pillar is simply the willingness to be of service in whatever small or practical way to those around us. Service, especially if offered selflessly (or as close to this as we can), connects us to the Oneness of Life, whether we know it or not. This connection is why we often feel uplifted through our intention to give. Whatever our present situation, can we offer something constructive through our words, our actions, our silence, or simply our centred presence?  Yes, we may forget and ‘fall down’ many times, yet this is not a problem if we are willing to stand up again, learning from experience, and being available in the service of life.  

Using our practice to find daily refuge, being open to gratitude for what we have, and the willingness to be of service to the situation we are in. These three pillars of yoga practice, amongst others, are readily available to us as we continue to navigate our way through the current uncertain waters.