the stoic yogi

stoicism yoga philosophy thinking parallels perennial

We have no power over external things and the good that ought to be the object of our earnest pursuit is to be found only within ourselves” 

                                                                                                         ~ Epictetus

Yoga & stoic philosophy are not the same. But can we draw parallels? When we compare different philosophies throughout the ages we stumble upon some interesting common points. 

Born into slavery, crippled in one leg and later in life banished from his hometown Rome, Epictetus (c. 50-135 CE) was no stranger to suffering. His teachings on the matter were practical and aimed at addressing human suffering in daily life. 

 Epictetus and later Marcus Aurelius & Seneca were pillars of the Stoic school of philosophy, a philosophy not so much about repressing emotion and shunning pleasure, but about focusing on what is in our power and letting go of everything we can’t control. Stoics are often viewed as being without emotion, of repressing negative feelings like loss, grief, pain. Much like what we today might call spiritual bypassing.  However, the stoic does not repress but integrates, views in a different light and creates distance in order to change their perspective. 

Stoicism prepares its followers for the tough times, gives them perspective, puts things in context. When life hands out the proverbial lemons, the Stoic will be making lemonade or more likely, caipirinhas.  And if that doesn’t turn out well, they’ll at least know why and be able to manage the s***storm. 

The stoic readies themselves for whatever the world sends their way; they practice the art of managing life, using intelligence to manoeuvre difficulties, preparing for the worst without expecting the worst to actually happen.

Similarly to the incomprehension and sometimes anger we encounter when discussing difficult concepts like non-attachment, we often find ourselves in heated discussions about whether this preparing and imagining the worst is not actually inviting negativity and disaster into our lives. The stoic however, much like the Tantrika, understands that life is not always a bed of roses and embraces the inevitable end of this human existence and with it the need to enjoy it while it lasts.

 Through the practice of yoga, we learn to curb our impulsive reactivity, negative judgements, our petty envies and our attachment to desires.  We become more light-hearted, we mindfully practice gratitude, for the gifts life hands us as much as for the challenges and hardships and sometimes hard lessons they teach us. 

If we can avoid the pitfall of thinking that, through the power of manifestation, we control every aspect of our lives, but rather, focus on mastering our reaction to the events in our life, we can truly embrace the stoic yogi within.

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