The theme of the month here at FYS this month is a beautiful sanskrit word – PREMA.
Prema is a sanskrit word for love, unlike Kama (selfish love) Prema is unconditional, divine and a higher sense of love. It is the love of a parent for a child for example, unconditional and fierce in its immensity. It is the love some people would have towards their God and in tantric philosophy, the concept of God is that every living thing is divine and therefore Prema is recognition (eventually) that YOU are pure divine love. What a thought!
February is the month of love, I for one am actually a big fan of Valentines Day, I love the hearts and cards and the fact that we have a day dedicated to love. When I was in the states, Valentines Day is a BIG DEAL. The shops and streets are full of Valentines themed things (everything you can possibly imagine) and it’s celebrated on a much larger scale than we do here, it’s not just about affection between lovers, but a day to tell everyone that you care about them that you care about them. I know some people would call me out and say this is consumerism gone bonkers, and I can see that, but I love the essence of Valentines Day and I don’t think you have to spend any money at all to show someone you care. Make a card, pick a flower, find a special piece of seaglass and wrap it in a love letter…it doesn’t have to be red roses and chocolates.
But I admit that I do like some of those things too, I’ve always been a fan of soppy love songs, heartfelt love poems and there is nothing better than receiving an hand written love letter (have a look at the love letters of Frida Khalo, Anais Nin and Sylvia Plath for some real passion and magical words)
But I’m also aware that this type of love, the type celebrated on Valentines Day is very much of the kama variety.
In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, one of the ancient yogic texts, there is a tale of the relationship between a husband and his two wives. What the story highlights is that when we say we love someone, we are actually projecting ourselves and our desires on them, as Anais Nin says ‘We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.’ The author of this story in the Upanishad, Yajnavaikya, says we need to meditate and reflect on our true self, if we become more loving of ourselves, we will feel more empathy for others and this is what will hold us and guide us through relationships.
And so we can start to move from Kama to Prema – start with pure love for the self first and the take this with us into our relationships and our love for others.
In all yogic philosophy, everything starts with the self. Whenever anyone asks me why I practice yoga I have one steady answer up my sleeve – it teaches me self awareness. I have come to know myself so much better through my yoga practice, the good and the bad stuff and I have certainly come to a kinder more compassionate place when it comes to myself. I’m not saying I don’t still give myself a hard time for a multitude of things (I do) but I also forgive myself when I’m not perfect, I can look in the mirror and think GODDESS rather than see all the flaws and I can try, not always succeed, to love myself with the same unconditional, pure love that I have for my son.
So what yogic or life tools can we access to increase PREMA in our world?
MANTRA – We can chant to Krishna, the playful God of love, come along to kirtan with us on 15th February for a fun filled heart-opening night or try our 8am mantra meditation session every Saturday morning for just £3 and see how you feel (I promise you will feel lighter and brighter). If you prefer to meditate solo, why not try repeating the mantra Aham Prema to yourself silently.
NADA YOGA – Nada yoga is the yoga of sound and music is an important part of the yogic tradition. Of course you can listen to mantra (which is said to raise our vibrations) but why not listen to your favourite love songs, the ones that give you goosebumps and make you think of your beloved with a smile on your face.
BHAKTI – If you are a fan of poetry and the written word take a moment to delve into the Sufi poets such as Rumi and Hafiz who wrote every poem as a love letter to the Beloved (God).
HATHA YOGA – Physically of course you can jump on the mat and practice physically opening the heart with a backbending practice which I’m sure the teachers will play with in class this month. You can also practice some heart opening breath practices such as Satchinandas double breath to really open the chest and heart or come along to our kriya session this Tuesday night for a special heart opening kundalini practice
MUDRA – mudras are yoga of the hands and one of the simplest but most beautiful is Padma mudra where you bring the heels of the hands together and then bring the thumbs and little fingers to touch, the rest of the fingers open like a flower. Place this at your heart and then roll the backs of the hands together as you breath, this little meditative gesture is said to unlock the knots of the heart. I’ll pop a little video if this on instagram this week.
I hope this gives you some inspiration on how we can celebrate love and work towards loving ourselves unconditionally and spreading prema.
Now to make my Valentines Day cards….