Over Thanksgiving weekend, we went to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Not only was it inspiring, but it was also heart-warming and thought-provoking. I have a small obsession with who Fred Rogers is as a person. I’ve watched the documentary too. The conclusion I’ve come to is that Fred Rogers is the embodiment of all Eight Limbs of Yoga. Did he practice yoga in the sense that he was on the mat every day? No. Did he still understand yoga better than most Westerners? Yes. Did he know he was practicing yoga? I have no idea.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga:
- Yama- These are the ethical practices to interact with the out world. The Yama is as follows:
- Ahimsa- Non-violence
- Satya- Truthfulness
- Asteya- Non-stealing
- Brahmacharya- Right use of energy
- Aparigraha- Non-greed
- Niyama- These are personal duties or observances. The Niyamas are as follows:
- Saucha- Purity (Keeping out environments and bodies clean and pure)
- Santosha- Contentment
- Tapas- Intense self-discipline
- Svadahyaya- Self Study
- Ishvara Pranidhana- Spiritual Surrender
- Asana- These are the meditative postures we generally associate with yoga. However, it can be any physical movement that prepares us for stillness in meditation.
- Pranayama- Breath control. Prana means energy, and through the breath, this is how you control the flow of energy through your body.
- Pratyahara- Sense withdrawal. This is the state of freedom from being reactive to the information that enters all of our senses.
- Dharana- Concentration. The ultimate presence. Keeping the focus on one thing instead of multiple things, which can be hard in today’s world.
- Dhyana- Meditation. This is the merging of individual consciousness and universal consciousness.
- Samadhi- Absorption/Superior Consciousness. This is the step toward enlightenment, where a universal union is created.
Mister Rogers embodied all eight. He was a vegetarian, he never wanted to hurt or harm others (Ahimsa). He tried to teach others healthy ways to deal with their emotions and act in a kind, loving way (Pratyahara). He would go swimming when he had feelings that were less than kind, which I believe was his Asana. He would focus his attention on being present with whoever he was with and whatever he was working on. Admittedly he and his wife both said he was not perfect but was striving to be the best person he could. That is the true essence of yoga. Many people travel the world looking for a yoga teacher, the best and closest to enlightenment. Many have been disappointed in search of a guru. I think I have found mine, in the form of a former PBS children’s show.
Seane Corn, in her book Revolution of the Soul, said multiple times, “Ignore the story and see the soul.” Fred Rogers was never just a children’s tv show host, he was the yoga teacher we never knew we needed. He is the type of person I strive to be, I have a long way to go, but now I have a direction.