I caught the tail end of an interview with Ernie Banks on NPR yesterday. He played shortstop, and then first base for the Cubs in the 50 ‘s and 60’s. Several things about him struck me as interesting. For one, he seems unusually humble for a ball player (Barry Bonds, A-Rod I’m looking at you), and he really did seem to enjoy just getting out and playing the game.
How refreshing in an era of multimillion dollar contract battles, temper tantrums, doping scandals etc… He stuck with the Cubs despite the fact that he never made it to the World Series, in fact he holds the Major League Record of most games played without a post season appearance.
What the heck does this have to do with yoga you ask? I’ll tell ya.
I have been re-reading B.K.S. Iyengar’s “Light On Yoga” , aka the yoga bible. In it Iyengar outlines the eight limbs of yoga: 1. Yama (moral commandments) 2. Niyama (self-purification by discipline) 3. Asana (postures) 4. Pranayama (breath control) 5. Pratyahara (emancipation of the mind from the senses) 6. Dharana (concentration) 7. Dhyana (meditation) 8. Samadhi (a state of super-consciousness brought on by profound meditation where the individual becomes one with the object of his aspiration). When we hear the word “yoga” most of us think of the asanas, or physical practice of yoga. This is just one of the eight limbs.
Ok now here is the Ernie Banks/ Yoga connection. Let’s take a look at one on the Niyamas, Santosa or contentment. To quote Iyengar:
“Contentment has to be cultivated. A mind that is not content can not concentrate. The yogi feels the lack of nothing and so he is naturally content. Contentment gives bliss unsurpassed to the yogi. A contented man is complete for he knows the love of the Lord and has done his duty. He is blessed for he has known truth and joy.”
Ernie says in his interview that there was talk of him being traded but that he didn’t think about it, he was just so focused on playing. In other words he was practicing Santosa.
Here is Ernie talking about walking out onto Wrigley Field:
“When I walked into that ballpark, my mind just, boom, on the game. ‘Cause it’s a park where you can easily lose your concentration because you’re close to the fans and all of that; and you know, you can see people in the stands walking around, pretty girls, and all of that. You could lose your concentration real fast. And I played the game as if nobody was there but me. That was it. When I walk in a ballpark today, I mean it’s the same thing, just me and the ball.”
This sounds like meditation, or mindfulness, one of the principles of yoga. Meditation helps us control our mind and relax our bodies. It allows us to be more conscious about what’s happening around us and more aware of what’s happening within ourselves. While not easily achieved we can get closer to this ideal with daily practice.
The goal of yoga is to eventually reach a state of Samadhi where the body and senses are at rest as if asleep, but the mind is alert and fully conscious. As Iyengar says “the peace that passeth all understanding”. I would call Ernie’s technique a form of moving meditation.
Have you experienced a zen-like moment where you felt as if you were exactly where you needed to be, doing exactly what you were meant to do, completely focused and not thinking of the past or future, only the here and now? If so tell me about it and what led you to that moment.