RHave you ever wondered how life would be if you had to raise yourself? What if you did not have any outside influences on how to live life? What if your only source of information was from yourself and nature?
A yoga practice will eventually drive one to ask these questions. By learning how to control your breathing and applying it to movement, internal layers are shedding. when you shed the layers, your thought processes lessen. There is space between the conversations in your head. In that space, you have unexplainable feelings, thoughts, insights, etc. Questions come up regarding life, for ex: “Who am I? or “What is my purpose?” Luckily, there are 8 limbs to yoga. In a typical yoga class, students will practice number 3 asana (the postures) and 4 pranayama (the breathing techniques). If the teacher is experienced in the other limbs, the student will become educated more on how to live them.
. The first limb to yoga is Yama (social ethics) and the second is Niyama (personal ethics).
Yamas are social ethics that allow for us to live peacefully within community. Combined with a physical yoga class, this is what one focuses on off the mat. This teaching is very logical, but challenging. It is a practice. There are 5 yamas:
- Ahimsa- Non-violence. This starts with the self. Instead of self-blame, escaping with alcohol or drugs, or reacting by lashing out, choose yoga instead. The beauty of the physical practice is one can burn and release the negative energy in a healthy way. There are many levels to violence. Our language to self or others can be violent. When you get upset, how do you react? Are you assertive, passive aggressive, or hostile? Aggression is when you allow your expression to come out so strong physically or emotionally, that there is no care for the rights of others. Example: Stuffing your emotions until one day, you blow up. You possibly become violent. Passive aggression is the inability to express the truth out of fear of reaction. Instead, you express your feelings through sarcasm or indirect humor. Example: Saying you are not angry when you really are, or saying “fine” or “whatever” and withdrawing to prevent an argument. This behavior usually backfires because most people are not mind readers. In fact, majority are too busy listening to the conversations spinning in their own heads. Psychological aggression is when someone verbally abuses you. It’s amazing what we allow others to say to us. If you don’t allow it to flow through you, it sticks to your heart. This can leave emotional scars. It takes a lot of self work to forgive and heal the heart. Being assertive is the best means of getting in touch with your feelings and peacefully expressing them in a way that respects your rights as well as others.
- Satya- Truth. What is truth? Well, someone asks you how you are doing and you answer “great” when in reality, you are having a tough time. That is not truth. Honesty seems to be a challenge for a lot of people. That is why satya is a practice. Ever lie to your friend who asks your opinion on how their new hairstyle looks? You know you hate it, but you tell them it looks amazing? We are trying to be nice, but is untruth healthy? The more you lie, the more lies become comfortable. Then you are working against the grain. One thing to keep in mind regarding honesty is that perfection is an illusion and no fun to be around. We could all relax a little more if we would just be authentic.
- Asteya- Non-stealing. How often to you end up with an extra pen or pencil? Do you find yourself borrowing a lighter and not giving it back? Ever felt entitled at work and took something home like extra pens or sticky notes? Theft isn't something we get over as children. Owning a business, I have found that adults (especially those closest to you) can have a huge issue with stealing on many levels. One thing is for certain, if you question it at all, it is stealing.
- Bramacarya- Appropriate use of one’s vital energy. When not feeling your best, it can be challenging to be around happy people. Keeping yourself in check is vital to keeping the happy energy unaffected, for example: In a work meeting, everyone is motivated and feeling great. The boss is feeding everyone kudos from a successful workweek. All of the sudden, a co-worker comes in really upset. The energy of the room shifts to this person. Energy is lost by this shift because the heart shuts down to protect itself from the madness. It is important to be considerate in these situations because it is easy to become an “energy vampire”. Another example is complaining to others habitually. If you find yourself calling your friends daily just to complain or gossip, stop it. You leave the conversation feeling amazing and your friend or loved one hangs up feeling drained! When you are feeling low, stay in or go to a yoga class to try and center yourself. It may be to a point that a therapist may be helpful to vent to. If you are the one left drained, then set the proper boundaries and do not condone the behaviors of others.
- Aparigraha- Non-attachment. This is challenging because attachment is easy! We love our stuff. Cars, fancy homes, cool clothes, the latest iPod, diamond engagement ring, even our partners and children. When the car breaks down, iPod breaks, you lose the diamond, partner cheats, and children move out and on, it can bring disappointment. Being controlled by others or outer forces is not fun either. If we can accept that we can not control things outside and allow things to be as they are, we are not affected.
Niyamas are personal ethics used to recondition yourself in order to live a balanced life. A combination of working on both your outer world as well as your inner self, making sure you are content in both areas. You condition your body through a regular yoga practice, and the mind through intellectual study. You are also encouraged to surrender to a higher force. All of this combined will allow for growth. You then are able to peacefully experience life in the present moment.
- Sauca- Cleanliness, purification. It is important to keep the energy around you fresh and positive. When things get dirty, the negative energy piles up. When negative energy piles up, you begin to feel the effects. It is encouraged to bathe or shower daily. If anything, clean your face, hands, feet, and mouth. If you were around a lot of people and got a lot of hugs, sneezes, etc, then its nice to change the outfit. Cleaning up your surroundings to be less distracting is also beneficial. If the air is stagnant, burning sage or diffusing of essential oils is a great way to clear the air. We also need to remember the earth is good for us. Opening a window or going outside in nature, which is our true home is grounding and purifying.
- Santosa- Contentment. Without guilt, It is your right to be. It is important to check in with yourself daily. Notice how you feel with no judgement. If you feel blah what would help? Maybe setting aside some time for yourself? We all deserve time for self care. It is healthy to remove helping others from your calendar unless it is a life threatening emergency and replace that time with self care. For example: A salt bath, a nap, writing or journaling, a yoga class, a massage, or meditation time. It is beneficial to turn off phones and electronics for a bit. Look at your calendar and see how much time you give to others compared to the time you give yourself.
- Tapas- Heating up the body in order to create change. It is healthy to get the heart rate and body temperature up to stir up energy for release of toxins, create strength, stamina, balance, and flexibility. It can be hard if not used to exercise because you may be tender or sore from the work. In this situation know that we are all in the same boat when it comes to taking care of our bodies. The pain felt in yoga or exercise is a healing pain. It is the pain you need to feel in order to grow. Guaranteed it is not like getting beat up or injured. Healing pain is short term and is a good sign that you are healthy! It does not have to be every day, but a brisk walk, run, yoga practice, or workout at the gym is important in order to keep the physical body working with ease until our last breath.
- Svadhyaya- Self observation or self study is necessary in order to learn how to “be”. We have all said, “I need to find myself”. Well, the only way to find yourself is through stillness. Sitting still and observing the breath and movements inside your body will teach you who you are and how you need to be. You can not get this information outside of you, but you can get “directions” or “signs” on how to get there by researching intellect in books, media, etc. Dr. Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, Ram Das, Doreen Virtue, and Jack Canfield are a few wonderful examples of where to begin research. Yoga of Dickson is a local studio that has free audio meditation and yoga available for download https://soundcloud.com/yoga-of-dickson.
- Isvarapranidhana- Devotion to a higher force. On the mat, this would mean surrender to the posture. By following the instructions given to us in class, we learn to more easily let go of the ego and get into the heart. Off the mat, this would be surrender and devote yourself to a higher power. Yoga stands alone. It is a way of life, not religion. Studies show there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world. All religions can use yoga).
So if you are new to yoga and would like an acceleration in growth, you could dive into the other 7 limbs. The postures will begin to make more sense, the breathing will become more important. You will begin living your yoga “off the mat”.