Understanding Simplicity

Sannyasi Poornananda (Greece)

Simplicity is one of the ITIES of Swami Sivananda. It can be applied to all walks and aspects of life. Simplicity reflects in the way we talk, the way we dress, the food we eat, the space we live in, the way we behave and interact with others. It affects our way of thinking, it colours our attitudes, our motives, nature and lifestyle. It influences our family, social, professional and personal life. And as yoga teachers it applies to our teaching of yoga.

How can we understand simplicity in our lifestyle? Life in the West or in western-minded countries has definitely become very complex. The consequences are that people have no time, they have too much to do, they think a lot, they have a lot of stress and anxiety, they are not satisfied and so on. So there is a need for life to become simpler and more meaningful.

Simplicity in life could be defined as doing what is necessary and makes sense. The way we live reflects in the way we think. If our life is complicated, our way of thinking will be so, to a greater or lesser degree. By making our life simpler, our mind gradually starts to think in a simple way.

Another way to implement simplicity is to live and feel content with the minimum amount of goods. This is also described in one of Patanjali’s yoga sutras as the principle of one, meaning to adopt as many ones in your life as possible – one desk, one bed, one pair of shoes, one girlfriend, one boyfriend, one sankalpa, one mantra, one symbol, one guru . . . This will help the mind to be less dissipated and dispersed over a variety of objects and subjects, and as a result there will be less tension and more energy.

Simplicity also means not overdoing things, or keeping a balance in whatever we do. Balance in life is an outcome of simplicity in life. There is a beautiful song by Swami Sivananda called the little song of the yoga of synthesis for daily practice: “Eat a little, drink a little, talk a little, sleep a little, mix a little, move a little . . .” and so on.

Simplicity in speech could be interpreted as speaking with frankness, truthfulness and sweetness, communicating in a clear and straightforward way. Simplicity in interactions and behaviour means to be natural, to be yourself, not to pretend to be something or someone you are not. Simplicity in nature, according to Swami Sivananda, is to be childlike, to be pure and spontaneous like a child, but not childish.

Simplicity in diet is reflected in the food of the ashram. Sooner or later you eat because you need to eat, not because you like to eat. The ashram diet is not oriented to satisfying desires for taste, but is more healthy and nutritious. It is simple.

Simplicity in dress could apply to both a neat appearance and an optimum quantity of clothing. Just think how much energy, time and money, not to mention emotion, people spend regularly on what they are going to wear. Simplicity is of key importance here. Dress codes or uniforms in various institutions or work places are an implementation of simplicity.

A simple environment is a spacious environment and at the same time a functional and comfortable one. It conveys the feeling of emptiness. Simplicity in attitudes and motives is responding to our needs, not our wants or desires.

In the teaching of yoga simplicity is responding to the needs of the people in front of you. To convey your subject in a simple way you need to know it well. So simplicity in teaching implies depth of knowledge and experience. Simplicity in practice leads to depth of experience. So we could say that simplicity and depth of experience go hand in hand for both teacher and student. To teach simply you need to live simply and be a simple person.