Surviving Survivor's Guilt With the 8 Steps of Yoga
While we celebrate the bravery of our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day, and reminisce about the camaraderie we build as part of a unit, we oft forget the toll that "survivor's guilt" takes on not only fellow soldiers, but family, friends and the community-at-large.
Subsumed under post traumatic stress disorder, survivor's guilt is a syndrome that may involve anxiety, depression, insomnia (including nightmares), unintended social withdrawal, mood swings, and physical trauma.
In a pledge to live our lives to the fullest -- so that theirs is not in vain -- UWM chatted with The New Age Urban Monk, Mike Bennett on what exactly it means to be "full."
Mike established his yoga practice while serving as a Marine. He completed his teacher training at the renowned Kripalu, and is a Board Member of Yoga4Change, serving directly at-risk youth, veterans, seniors and the incarcerated.
We asked him, what is his new age urban translation of "yoga," and how does he use it to survive survivor's guilt?
Are yogis susceptible to survivor's guilt?
Mike Bennet: Walking away from anything whether its war, poverty or a relationship, where you have lost those that were once a part of what you considered to be your identity is extremely painful.
A piece of you is missing and it could be hard to feel whole again. Feeling whole again is what my yoga practice has helped facilitate in my life. Through my practice, I have realized it is my responsibility to live a life of duty and service in honor of those I have lost. I honor my responsibility by bringing the healing and empowerment that comes with the practice of yoga to those who need it the most.
What does yoga mean to you?
"What exactly is Yoga?" is the question in the back of the mind of thousands of beginning yogis and potential yogis. Is Yoga a religion? Is it a cult? Is it an exercise regimen?
The meaning of the word Yoga means "to yoke," or "union." Yoga is the harmonizing or union of the mind, body, and breath as a tool for personal growth and healing. The goal of yoga is the quieting of the chatter of the mind and to bring one back to an open minded and well-balanced healthy state of being.
How can Yoga possibly do something that profound and great? Yoga is a practice built on eight steps or stages, each building on the previous and preparing us for the next that act as guidelines to building a life that is full of Happiness, Health and Love.
What Are these 8 Steps of Yoga?
The first step on the path is practicing five yamas, or character building restraints, universal practices similar to the Golden Rule “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.”
- Non-injury/Non-violence to yourself or others.
- Truthfulness to yourself and others.
- Non-stealing from yourself and others, not just material possessions but intangible things such as time, effort, and attention.
- Practices That Lead You Back To Source/Spirit/God, meaning reading philosophy or scriptural texts, prayer, meditation.
- Non-Attachment to people, places, things, concepts, and ideas.
The second step is practicing niyamas, character building observances based on self discipline.
- Cleanliness of the heart, body, breath and mind.
- Contentment, being happy with where you are and what you have in life without complacency.
- Uplifting Discipline, being deeply rooted in a practice that is not always easy and sometimes requires you to walk through the fire and strengthen your body, mind, and character.
- Self-Study, getting to truly know yourself. The greek philosophers said there was no greater yield than knowing thyself to understand the nature of the human being.
- Trusting Life, everything works out in the end and if it hasn’t worked out yet it’s because it’s not the end. Life has a plan for you but you have to interact with that plan and take action.
The third step is what people think of the most when they think of yoga and that is asana, the practice of physical postures. The physical postures are meant to build self-discipline and strengthen the body and mind in order to maintain the seat of meditation.
The fourth step is pranayama, breath control, practicing breathing techniques designed to gain mastery over the connections between body, breath, mind, and emotions.
The fifth step is pratyahara, making the conscious effort to withdraw from the outside world to prepare for meditation. The practice of being aware of, yet detached from our senses while directing our attention inward.
The sixth step is dharana, the initial stage of meditation, practicing focused attention on a chosen single point of concentration.
The seventh step, dhyana is the intermediate stage of meditation, the uninterrupted flow of concentration being able to maintain attention without a single point of focus for at least 12 inhales and exhales without the mind wandering. At this stage, the mind has been quieted, and in the stillness it produces few or no thoughts at all.
The eighth step, samadhi, is the advanced stage of meditation. At this stage, the meditator merges with his or her point of focus. It can be described as a state of ecstasy, an experience of bliss and being at one with the Universe. Peace.
Everyone’s yoga practice is different and unique to them, but we all strive to be happy and healthy beings and this path is one prescription on how to achieve a life that is full of happiness, health, and love.
Click here to receive your free copy of Mike's Mastering Your Morning Routine eBook.
Parts of this post was originally posted on TheNewAgeUrbanMonk.com.
Mike Bennett, RYT 200 is the founder of The New Age Urban Monk and a Board Member of Yoga4Change. He first discovered the benefits of yoga in the Marine Corps as a method to relieve chronic pain from injuries.
A military veteran and all around good guy with a love of yoga, he started as a student at Yoga4Change, before joining the Board of Directors, where he brings marketing and business expertise. In 2016, Mike attended Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training and has been teaching classes in the community ever since. Along with senior and school-based yoga programs, Mike has a special gift for working with teens. He teaches regular weekly classes with at-risk youth, including teens struggling with chronic mental health and addiction throughout Central, CT. He details his journey in his upcoming book Birth of an Urban Yogi.
Friend him on Facebook @UrbanYogiLife and follow him on Instagram @UrbanYogiLife.