Do you practice yoga off the mat?
Have I lost you?
Would you ever consider that your yoga practice is so much more than the time you spend moving through postures on the mat?
What about when the class is over? Then what? You go back to the same pace of life with all of its stressors and remain just as
tightly spun as when you came to your mat?
Or is there more...so much more to this practice, that draws you in with an innate curiosity, to edge closer to that voice from within that there is something that feels much deeper than what you came here for?
If intrigued, I invite you to take a walk with me through this post, as we begin to explore Patanjali's 8 limbs of yoga; beginning with the Yamas which consist of 5 principles.
Are you familiar with the 8 limbs of yoga? Or have I lost you again...
Let's simplify.....according to the ancient Indian texts, Patanjali outlines an 8 fold path to help guide us all in our yoga practices to lead us towards a more purposeful life. Yes, that's right....a greater purpose. Not just going to your yoga class to get 'your stretch on', I am talking about the deep murky waters here, where we can begin to explore our true purpose in this life.
The Yamas are 5 principles which mainly focus on how we interact with the world around us. You likely practice these in your day to day, without even realizing it!
Let's dedicate this post to the first Yama, Ahimsa (translated as non violence).
This relates to all aspects of life. Your actions, your thoughts, your asana practice (this means the poses you do on the mat) even your food! Real transformation begins when you bring these principles into your life on and off the mat. Think about it; you complete an hour yoga class, then you find you are running late to your next appointment so you push past the lines to grab your things, race out the door, cut someone off in the parking lot to leave in haste, does this sound very yogic to you?
In your actions, in your words, in your thoughts.
Avoiding harm to all living things. Ahimsa.
By cultivating this essence, you begin the journey towards success in your true yogic path. Life itself, or how we ought to be treading through this journey we call life.
How is your self talk?
Are the words kind, or cruel?
Compassionate or criticizing?
Do you beat yourself up if you struggle in a posture or in life?
What about those balancing poses; when you fall out what do you say to yourself in your own mind?
What about how you interact with others?
Are you choosing kindness in the spoken word?
What about your thoughts?
When someone wrongs you, are you spiraling in a state of negative thoughts about them? Or can you land in a place of understanding (do not confuse understanding with acceptance or condoning harmful behavior from others) or even empathy?
How do you nourish your physical body?
In food, drink and movement.
We have all at some point in time, I am sure, treated our bodies like an amusement park with toxic substances, or poor decisions in health like lack of sleep, burning the candle at both ends or the like. But how does it feel when you shift, into Ahimsa, and allow kindness to be conscious, extending it out to your physical body, mind and your heart...
Some choose to practice Ahimsa in their diet as vegetarians or vegans, to further refrain from eating animals, or their by-products as an expression of non harm to all living beings.
The point is, there are ranges, and ALL of it is a fit for everyone.
But if you don't start, you won't know.
And attuning yourself deeper in your yoga can only be felt when you bring it off the mat and into the real world.
I invite you to explore this principal in practice.
Theory is great, but the true learning comes from the applied use of the knowledge.
And as part of my commitment to teaching these practices to all of you, I take great pride and recognized responsibility in sharing these concepts with you; living your yoga.
Pick one day in your week, where you will bring Ahimsa into your life. Maybe you will aim for more, but I challenge you to explore just one. As a source of inspiration, I leave you some prompts or suggestions to get you started:
- smile at a passerby as you walk down the street
- hold the door open for someone
- choose one supportive phrase and post it where you can see it throughout your day
- reach out to someone you know and express how much they mean to you
- enjoy a meal/snack that leaves you feeling nourished and energized
- offer a compliment to a stranger (cashier, delivery person, crossing guard etc.)
I look forward to experiencing the collective healing you will generate with these actions; Ahimsa in practice truly brings us all one step closer, to a world we all deserve to be living in.
Thank you for your practice dearfriends.