Follow the Llama
Last week was quite an eventful one, being that it was a holiday week, and although there was some rain, it could not stop what had to be one of the highlights of the year - a visit to a llama farm. Second Wind Farm is located in Central New Jersey hosted and managed by llama enthusiast Bev Vienckowski (a.k.a. Miss Bev), whose mission is to spread love and awareness of llamas. In addition to having the beautiful family of llamas, she has a store where she sells llama fiber accessories like loofahs, socks, and blankets. Llamas have soft and rich fiber.
The first llama to which I was introduced, Gunner - who sported a reddish brown coat, cautiously approached me and gave a sniff in order to ascertain whether I was good company - fortunately I passed his test as well as that of the others - Carbon, Clemente, Eduardo, and Jim-E. Afterward we had a photo shoot where the wonderful team of majestic creatures walked around sporting the yoga bags in which my company, Llamaste, manufactures, and in which the llamas were extremely cooperative.
As yogis we can learn quite enough from llamas. Many people have misconceptions of these creatures - one of the most common questions is, "don't they spit?" Well, yes and no. Llama generally only spit at each other and not at humans, and the reason they do this is to alert others that their personal space is being invaded.
As yogis, we have our mat, which is our space - our home, and in life, we all like to have our own space and know when that space is being violated. If it is by someone we are fond of, we tend not to be bothered, and is so, we can politely tell them, "excuse me, I need my space." When it is a perfect stranger, it becomes creepy and you want to say, "hey back off." Now although a llamas way of communicating this is by spitting, it is how they communicate with each other. This is also how they reject another llama's sexual advances (they can't quite say they have headaches, whether or not they do get headaches).
Llamas overall are very social creatures, in fact, an important trait about llamas that people tend to overlook is that they need interaction, and love to hang out with each other. As yogis we must be aware of this in ourselves. Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning "union," and that union begins between ourself and our highest self - that is creating awareness and sense of self. Once that yoga is created, once we are fully aware and confident in ourselves, we go on create the highest union - between our highest self - our integrity - and the Universe. Through that universe, we are connected to each other, and every living and non-living thing. In order to actualize that is by interacting with others and through that interaction, we create a better world. Llamas are ingrained with that awareness which we strive so hard to attain.
Though llamas are very social creatures, because they must have their space and sense of peace, they can easily be startled if approached the wrong way - you must first earn their trust. And if you think about it, it's not far fetched. Imagine meeting someone for the first time, and he and she without warning gives you a giant bear hug and starts talking loud to you? You would probably back off and keep your distance. In the larger context of things, llamas are no different, however since they don't understand basic handshakes and small talk, they have their way is to sniff you and use their intuition, their third-eye per say to determine whether you are trustworthy. They detect breath for the most part.
In yoga breathing plays an important part of creating the awareness within yourself. It is often referred to in Sanskrit as pranayama, prana which means "life-source." In essence, breathing is the vehicle - the action which allows your life source to flow and enable you to live. Llamas detect who you are by your breath, and even whether you are a meat eater or vegan!
If you think about it, it is no coincidence that the word "llama" has the same sound as lama, a sage. It has the same sound as pranayama, the breathing apparatus performed in yoga, which llamas loIn Spanish and Portuguese it is pronounced "yama" (Portuguese spell it 'lhama'). Yama and Pranayamain fact, are terms associated with the 8 Limbs of Yoga as outlined in The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, written around 200 CE (AD). Yama is about our moral behavior, acting with the highest of integrity, behaviors which include, non-stealing, truthfulness, compassion, controlling of the senses and desires, and conservation of wealth and resources.
Along with the yamas, we have the niyamas - our laws of conduct for everyday life, which include remaining pure, our modesty - that is our sense of self and duty, how we direct our energy, awareness of ourselves, and finally awareness of a Higher Spiritual Source. These terms have the same pronunciation of the llama in its native language, and by observing the behaviors and attributes of the llama, as yogis we can learn much about ourselves.