Ricky Tran is a Dallas-based yoga studio owner. As someone fighting addictions, he knew his life needed to be turned around. He turned to yoga and the sutras. The deeper he delved, the more he wanted to make a difference in the world.
“I woke up and saw how others were still sleep-walking. I couldn’t stand around and enjoy my happiness when virtually everyone I met and saw was in pain.”
To better share the wisdom of the sutras, Ricky breaks things down in simple talk.
“I like to call the sutras, zip files. If you can unzip them, all the information appears. If you don’t have the key, it doesn’t make sense,” says Ricky, as he unlocks that zip file for 2016 Texas Yoga Conference attendees.
One of the tenets is called santosha. Sanskrit rarely can be translated easily with one word. Santosha is about a sense of contentment. Ricky says that contentment is the lack of lack. That what you have is enough. Gratitude. The practice isn’t about being content all the time. It’s a practice of finding contentment. Sukha.
An example Ricky gives is how a yogi can sit in a cave completely happy doing nothing. Yoga should lead you toward santosha. Making you feel complete. You may be completely alone, in a cave, or in your own home, but not lonely. He uses the Sanskrit word kaivalya, which he translates as “to be alone, but not lonely.”
That comfort in stillness is one of the few references to yogasana in the Yoga Sutra. Three words, which are a mantra to some yogis: Sthira (stillness) sukha (pleasure/bliss) asanam (seat/pose) says asana (a yogic seat) is defined by two qualities, sthira and sukha (steadiness and comfort).
The trick is not to be attached to your efforts. Do the work, but let go of the fruits. This is the basis for karma yoga. Ricky says the goal of yoga is freedom. “Ultimately you’ll know you own nothing. We don’t really own anything. Not your body. Not your house.” Besides, “Yoga teaches us to give and not take. It’s like a karmic bank account. Give more than you take.”
Ricky talks about how many people are clueless when it comes to yoga. They think it’s about sweating, twisting, bending, jumping, or doing a headstand or handstand.
“You can have two people doing the same pose, but only one is doing yoga. In modern yoga, it’s mainly physical. We know plenty of jerks that can get their leg behind their head.”
“It’s not about being able to do it,” he continues. “It’s about going from a stiff place and learning the pose. What you learn on the way there is tolerance. We have so much potential. The more you do yoga, the more you tolerate. In the mastery, you become more tolerant of dualities, like victory and defeat. Hot and cold. Even road rage.”
A yogi does everything well, on and off the mat, according to Ricky. Some of that is due to inner discipline. That discipline manifests in many ways. Even as a discipline of the tongue. “Stop eating so much. Stop talking so much. It’s not just the tongue but all the senses. Surrender to something higher than yourself.”
Ricky makes it clear as day.
“The mind and breath are like the two front wheels of your car. If your mind is racing at 100 miles per hour, your breath is racing at 100 miles per hour. In Yoga, we’re trying to decrease our heart rate. You want slow and controlled breathing. During one’s yoga practice, The breath may be strong but needs to be relaxed, and 100 percent voluntary breath control.”
Ricky then demonstrates how he can breathe so slowly, and mindfully. Even in a headstand. He gracefully, and with great strength, lifts his legs to a pike position. Then points his toes to the sky. As he holds his perfect headstand for about one minute, he only inhales once.
When he releases his headstand, he quotes the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, “When the breath wanders, the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed, the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath.” Per Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, the godfather of modern yoga and yoga therapy, “The breath should be made long and smooth and mind should fix on the Infinite.”
Seems so simple. But it’s not. Most of us tend to be mindless about our breath, or body, and our actions. Discipline. That’s the key. And intent.
Following Buddhist words of wisdom, he concludes: “Breathe in and know you’re breathing in. Breathe out and know you’re breathing out.”