- Practice yoga – it always comes back to your practice. More problems in your mind and body are solved by simply practicing yoga, than any other means – including thinking, fretting, losing sleep and (low and behold) therapy. Albert Einstein said: we can’t solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created it. Your mind got you into the mess you’re in in the first place. Use your practice to get out of your head and into your body begin to tap the wisdom that rests in there.
- Be kind – to yourself and to others. Start with yourself and practice this every day. It’s a most unnatural thing to practice kindness compassion and care to ourselves – yet it kind of is a prerequisite to offer the sincere kind of care kindness and compassion to those around you.
- Listen to your body – in how you practice yoga, in how you eat, in every day situations. Your body will give you warning signals to let you know when you go too far, when what you’re eating isn’t what it needs (and will cause your death a few years down the line) and way before any situation gets beyond your control. If we can learn to tap into the signals from our bodies we can make better choices for ourselves. We can become proactive rather than reactive and save ourselves so much physical and emotional pain. Even in stressful encounters with other people. Your body will warn you when you are beginning to spin outside of your comfort zone (your centre as we yogis refer to it) and it will bring you back if you allow it. No more saying things you don’t mean and regretting it later. Hotheadedness – be gone!
- Eat consciously – no need to be a vegetarian as such but care about what you eat…and who you eat….and how you eat it. Be aware not only of how what you eat serves you and your body, physically, mentally and spiritually, but also how it impacts the environment. Enjoy what goes into your mouth, savour the taste and be grateful for the energy and nutrition it provides. Feel blessed by how the earth nourishes and supports you. Support organic farming for the sake of your body, the farmers, the animals and your earth. Which leads onto the next point…
- Care for the world – it’s inhabitants and the environment. You don’t have to be a green peace hippie – but brownie points if you are. Recognise the concept of ‘We are all connected’ and let that bring home to you the need for us all to look after each other and what we leave behind. It might not always feel that you can do much to save a starving child in Ethiopia and sure enough – the ignorance is bliss excuse works a charm for most. But you’re better than that and so is each starving child, each sea animal that dies due to pollution and every cow in a cage, abused and mistreated to provide to mass producers. The world is ours and you’re not as far away from it all as you think. Get on board. Take responsibility. Be kind.
- Don’t follow the rules – they aren’t real – or true and they don’t serve us. Who made the rules anyway? You are vast and brilliant and you are free. More so than we ever really allow ourselves to imagine. When you find yourself thinking ‘I should’ immediately interject and ask instead ‘says who?’. The lives we have created for ourselves by society’s rules which were devised to make us all more ‘predictable and controllable’ aren’t making us as happy as we should be. We are more depressed and less healthy than any generation that came before us. The more we fit into boxes the further we move away from our true nature of vastness and brilliance. Don’t succumb to ‘the rules’. Be who you really are and love every minute of it. See how the world will love you back!
- Exercise choice – choice in how you expend energy, choice in your responses and choice in how you approach the new beginnings available to you in every single day.
- Approach life with an attitude of gratitude – see the lesson in every moment and in every person and be grateful that they came to teach you what you needed to learn. Every situation or person – however unpleasant painful or wonderful, came to give you something to integrate into your being, to learn from and to allow you to become free of the bondage of your mind and everything that doesn’t serve you.
- Heart over matter – because that’s where your true power lies. Not in your mind like we have all allowed our minds to lead us to believe for so long. Keep coming back to stillness and finding that place of wisdom, love and peace inside you, and you will never again want for anything. The love and care of the Divine isn’t out there – it’s right here within you. You really never ever need anything more than connecting with that part of your being. And when you do that all of the above commandments effectively fall away because you are in your most natural most perfect state of being.
- On your journey to living the Ten Commandments be a caring and considerate studio yogi – don’t get protective of your space in the studio, don’t sweat on someone else’s mat. Don’t turn up late and don’t leave during savasana. Consider your neighbour in your supine twists when space is limited. Don’t judge people who don’t do yoga – they’re way behind you on the journey ? and say Namaste back to your teacher at the end of class. It’s just how it’s done. In the studio the teacher makes the rules ?
Yoga is not a religion and these 10 commandments are not meant to attempt to replace or override the commandments, rules or regulations of any religious faith. (is there an emoticon for tongue in cheek?)
Read more: http://mype.co.za/new/the-ten-commandments-of-a-yogi/29580/2013/09#ixzz3dLc9wuel
Practicing Yoga in a conscious and present way is a great way to learn more about yourself and how you interact with and respond to life in general. These lessons aren’t always clear as day but when we begin to let go of the preconceived ideas of what we should be doing or look like in a yoga class and just become very aware of ourselves, our bodies and our response to the practice– as its happening in real time – we begin to be able to draw some parallels with how we respond in life outside of the studio.
One of the very interesting lessons yoga has brought home to me is the way in which I expend energy. Noticing where energy is concentrated or stuck, and then being able and willing to move it around is one of the privileges of the yoga practice – and one of the privileges of being human and exercising choice. The choice comes after awareness of what is actually happening in our bodies and in our lives and so practicing being truly present for ourselves is of crucial importance.
Take for example a high lunge where we’re normally blasting energy through the front leg, carrying all the weight of our bodies and just hanging in there hoping it will be over soon. We tense up holding on to the position, trying to balance and not fall to the side for fear of a domino effect of yogis toppling all over each other (see how worrying about something that hasn’t even happened yet takes you out of the present moment?). In this posture there are quite a few other parts of the body to shift awareness and focus to in order to alleviate the tension, i.e. the concentration of energy in that front leg. Moving the energy around will mean your front leg won’t fatigue as quickly and the posture can be held for a much longer period of time – giving you even more of the benefit. Let me illustrate: while in your high lunge, shift your focus to the back leg – pushing the back heel away from you and straightening out the back leg puts strength into that leg that anchors you down and assists in the balancing element of the posture. This in turn means a huge relief in the front leg. Tucking the tailbone down and lifting your belly takes a lot of weight out of the front leg as your upper body now uses its own energy to hold itself up and ‘be light’ rather than bearing more weight onto the legs. Firing up the arms and blasting energy through both hands, also shifts energy away from the legs and helps to give your upper body the feather quality of being light and easy to hold up. Softening your face frees up some energy to expend in more useful places rather than just being wasted on something that makes no difference to the pose whatsoever….to just name a few.
So what does this teach us about our responses in real life?
We all have situations in our lives where we feel our attention or energy is being drawn to certain aspects and pulled away from others. We need a daily reminder that nothing is drawn, nothing is taken, nothing is given – everything is a choice that we make. In the high lunge you place your energy in the front leg and hope it will be over soon…and if the situation lasts the front leg gets into trouble – just as you do, when situations you are ‘drawn’ to don’t resolve and you exercise no choice of withdrawing energy or finding ways of supporting yourself in these situations. Someone grates you, wrongs you, angers you and so your energy is focused on this particular situation/person. The focus of energy is a magnet for more energy meaning that a situation (often negative or difficult) becomes all consuming. Losing sight of the ability to choose whether to invest further in this energy, or to withdraw, move it around, diffuse its intensity – results in lots of dissatisfaction, internal civil wars and general draining of vital energy. This in essence is completely unnecessary and could be prevented if we were able to be very present for ourselves at all times – always choosing, consciously, mindfully, how we will expend energy, and how we can conserve it. If we can consciously be aware of the energy sappers – and taking charge!
Allowing a concentration of negative energy such as anger or resentment to build up usually leads to some chronic pain, illness or form of depletion – as we all well know. In that sense, redistributing energy and rebalancing attention from our obsessions with things that don’t necessarily serve us, is an act of healing towards ourselves and our bodies. We can also help our bodies last much longer by shifting the energy around, making it lighter, not being so obsessed and focused on one single way of looking at or doing something. Part of this is letting go of the need to manage all qualities of our experience as well as different opinions for different people. Recognising that some of what we want to control is not in fact OURS actually frees up your body and mind of so much unnecessary tension. Someone comes at us and we get so stuck in that place where it hurts that we fail to see any options – least of all letting go of what we can’t control – and taking charge of our response to that which is not ours.
Learning to move energy around in this way, getting unstuck in places where it hurts, places where we hold on to beliefs and ideas that really serves no one including ourselves, is a way of also starting to live more compassionately towards the world. Sharing compassion will result in receiving compassion and hey – what do you know – the world becomes a kinder place. Big change starts with the change in you so don’t underestimate the power and magnitude of this stuff.
So for the benefit of all of us in your world and outside, entertain the possibility of welcoming back into your heart the people you have tossed out, called names, written off. You don’t have to see them or even be with them, but as an option, instead of holding them so far away, release some of that energy you’re using to do so, for your own healing.
When you have hate in your body for anyone, remember that that hate lives in your body…not theirs.
I have in my years of practicing yoga shifted in my reasons for doing so. It started out as a physical thing, where I was convinced that hot bikram yoga will transform my body so that even I could love it. It has evolved and now my philosophy around practicing yoga is simple: practice yoga because it feels damn good. Sometimes you know why it feels just so great– and other times you can’t explain it. Who cares?! Does everything have to be worded and boxed? No. It really doesn’t…and shouldn’t.
Many people decide to practice yoga because a particular style or school of yoga really gives them what they need! Some yogis and teachers REALLY believe that their own style is the best to follow – which is great – it obviously makes them feel damn good and I for one will not argue with that.
They might enjoy the structure and safety in an Iyengar Yoga practice – where precision in alignment, timing and sequencing is everything. Others love the Ashtanga Series for the fact that it requires tremendous strength and power to get through. Not to mention the arm definition its bound to give you! Vinyasa flow is the most hip form of yoga in the West, with postures flowing into each other, much like a dance – with every class being different to any other, as it is often just the creative energy of the teacher which governs what is included on any given day. Hot yoga became another craze and still make people feel fantastic and others sick – every damn day!
Ultimately the styles are based on Hatha Yoga – that yoga developed in India centuries ago – the same yoga that builds strength, flexibility and balance. Also the same yoga that improves your bone density, joint flexibility, sorts out spinal issues, strengthens your immune system and dramatically reduces your stress levels.
All the yoga styles are great. They all get you there – in different ways. Go with the one that makes you feel damn good.
Many people take to yoga as part of a spiritual journey – seeking a connection with The Higher Source. Yoga often strengthens people’s relationship with God, which is part of what makes the practice so special…for some. As many choose to avoid yoga because it’s perceived to be in conflict with or seen to be a religion on its own. The questions live on: Does practicing yoga mean I subscribe to Hinduism or Buddhism? Is it a religion or isn’t it? No and no. Just like practicing Japanese martial arts such as Karate and Aikido doesn’t mean you subscribe to Buddhism, practicing yoga doesn’t make you Hindu – or a sorcerer or witch or anything. Yoga is non-sectarian, promoting health and harmonious living. A little like feeling damn good! Yoga is such a personal experience so whether you do it with a spiritual end goal in mind, or only to correct your spine – it’s all good.
Some people take to yoga because it’s the cool, fashionable thing to do. Everyone does it – A through to C list celebrities and sport personalities/teams have all taken to the mat to get in line with the ‘trend’ that brings so many benefits. So they ended up staying – because it feels so damn good! Yoga is transformative – and it will stay that way – long after it stops being cool. If ‘cool’ is your reason it’s a good enough reason. Get into it and experience all the amazing benefits of being so damn cool.
In the ongoing war against being fat – many take to yoga with the aim of losing weight. Like with any weight-loss regime a balanced diet (first and foremost) combined with some form of exercise give the best results. The value of yoga in this quest comes back to the connection and relationship that is being built with your own body. On the yoga journey your body begins to be your teacher – showing you where to go shove your ‘perceived’ limitations. Your body – through the practice – helps you become stronger in and for yourself, it teaches you to trust in yourself and have confidence in what you can do. Your body shows you that you are more than just what’s in your mind or what is reflected on a scale. It is in this looking at yourself as if you’re someone you actually love, care for and admire that the shift begins to hit the fan. You become protective of what you give your mean miracle machine of a body. You nurture and nourish instead of stuff and abuse. You do this because you choose to and want to – not because you are restraining yourself out of fear of gaining pounds (and everything that is associated with being ‘fat’).
Loving and accepting your body, as it is today, is probably the biggest shift you will ever make in any weight-loss or self-development programme or journey– and once that happens who knows what the scales will do next?
Not that it matters of course – all that matters is that you feel damn good!
Physiotherapists and Chiropractors have full waiting rooms for those who can no longer live with the pain and yet the problem never really gets resolved through that avenue either. Regular physio and chiro visits become a highly expensive treatment strategy for back pain. The issue is that while physios and chiros do a great job to relieve pain, it is only through recognising the underlying cause of back pain in the first place (i.e. not that this joint is pressing against that nerve and hence the pain – I’m talking what in your life style has caused this nerve to get in the way of that joint) and then systematically and regularly doing the work to maintain spinal adjustments and health, that back pain may become a thing of the past – as so many yoga students now find. Yoga couldn’t replace physios or chiros, but it certainly has a huge role to play in spinal health as millions of yogis the world over will profess.
Here are a few of the reasons why everyone with any form of back pain should attempt yoga as a way to relieve the pain and address the issues for a healthy spine in the longer run:
1. Relaxation – the role of tension/stress in pain
Our days are busy and we tend to run from one point to the next in an attempt to meet competing demands. We often operate on autopilot just in getting everything done and often have very little knowledge or awareness of the tension that sits in our bodies. This tension may sit here for years without being released. It eventually manifests in pain – and very often in back pain specifically. Not even when we sleep do we relax fully and release tension. There is therefore a huge role for very purposeful relaxation in releasing tension in the body – and in so doing beginning to release the source of pain. Stress and tension in the body has a far reaching impact on health – but just bringing it to the spine we become aware of its role in the following:
Tension in the spine prevents movement and therefore causes stagnation in the spine. Muscles lock around the vertebrae (in a protective way) but it means the spine becomes rigid where flexibility is needed. It results in poor posture, a lack of nourishment to joints which needs compression and release to fill up on the good stuff and the constant holding on in the muscles eventually causes pain.
The lack of movement where movement is needed causes other parts of the body to compensate and work harder or in a different way to ensure what needs doing gets done regardless of the rigidity in the spine, and these compensations causes tension, fatigue and misalignments in other parts of the body. This in turn also causes pain.
Rigidity in the spine makes the spine vulnerable to sudden movements, shocks or jolts – which if this then occurs in normal day-to-day life, makes the spine more vulnerable to more serious injury. A spine that has space between the vertebrae, lubricated and nourished joints and has a good level of flexibility can withstand much more of what it may be exposed to on a daily basis.
Yoga incorporates purposeful relaxation and stress release and gives you and your body the break it so desperately needs. Even doing this for a few minutes a day during practice makes an unbelievable difference.
2. Strengthening vs Releasing Tension in Movement/Exercise
When people are given advice on exercising to relieve back pain, they are often told that the core needs to be strengthened. So they may well set out to the gym to do more strength training. However – it is really important to know that before any strength work is done in relieving back pain – tension has to be released. Otherwise you will end up building strength around tension – more likely in the wrong places too – leading to even more misalignment and ultimately more pain and injury.
It is so important to release tension first – and in a tension free spine begin to strengthen that place of space and natural movement – rather than strengthening what you don’t want and are trying to get rid of. Strength training is great in its own time. But never ever strengthen tension.
Yoga incorporates both releasing and strength based movements – in the right proportions to the correct parts of the body to ensure a safe release and purposeful building in strength.
3. Flexibility vs Stability
Different parts of the spine require different levels of stability and flexibility. The lower back is a stable part of the spine, requiring less flexibility and more strength for stability. However – a really stiff lower back is not what you want either. It creates huge issues in limiting movement and brings the pelvis and hips out of alignment. The Thoracic or Middle back requires much more flexibility and limited strength to fulfil its function. It is the area where most of the movement occurs and importantly – the space to breathe! The Cervical spine requires a good balance of stability and flexibility. It supports the head and nervous system and a stiff neck adversely affects both brain and body. You really need the neck to be free of tension.
So it is very important to with a varied yoga practice address the different elements of what the spine needs – releasing tension but then improving flexibility where needed and building strength where that will support the spine – in the right proportions and in the right places.
4. Impact of core, hips, shoulders and hamstrings in back pain
We often hear that core is a big issue in lower back pain. A weak core most definitely impacts the spine as it puts additional pressure on the spine in various movements and also simply in poor posture. A strong core supports the spine in all its activity, so it definitely is true that you need to have a strong core. But strengthening your ‘abs’ by doing crunches isn’t strengthening your core. Your core involves the entire centre of your body – front and back – and if you simply focus strength on the front part of the body (abs) you are again putting strain on your back as the back part of the core can’t hold itself up against the front. So proper core exercises incorporating both the front and back body is essential in maintaining spinal health.
The core strength that you build in Yoga is unequalled and builds a solid and protective base from which your spine can fulfil its functions without having to over-exert itself and hold the core up when it was never meant to do that. A strong core lightens the load on the spine.
Tight hips and hamstrings are also culprits in back pain – especially lower back pain. So opening the hips and bringing length to the hamstrings will give more mobility to the lower back – and release pain.
Tight shoulders also impacts pain in the back – especially upper back and neck pain. We carry so much tension in the shoulders and neck and poor posture, sedentary lifestyle and imbalances in how we work out causes slouching shoulders and pressure on the upper back and neck.
You can already begin to see that addressing back issues and achieving full spinal health requires more than a massage and adjustments in your back alone. All body parts are connected. You will not achieve ongoing spinal health if your hips and hamstrings etc aren’t being cared for too.
5. Metaphysical Causes of Back Pain
Back pain originates – on the surface – from an injury or an accident. On a metaphysical level we believe that back pain is just another way in which your body is trying to communicate other imbalances in your body that requires your attention. From and Elemental point of view (assuming the body is energy made up of the five elements – earth, water, air, fire, and space/ether) – any spinal issues or injuries point to an imbalance in the water element in the body. Water imbalances indicates difficulties in allowing time or space to become still, to reflect on and acquire knowledge of the true self. It’s an inability to truly connect with one’s own feelings and actually feeling quite overwhelmed by them – and so either withdrawing or becoming preoccupied. People with water imbalances try to please others and tend to follow (go with the flow) what others think and feel, rather than understanding the values of boundaries and feeling confident in one’s own potential as well as limitations. This plays out overcompensating behaviours such as someone being either being quite overwhelming, extravagant, authoritarian, driven and disciplined and often critical of self and others – to the opposite end of someone being withdrawn and apprehensive, lacking in will-power and self-esteem and harbouring lots of feelings of unfounded guilt.
There is real value in looking at back pain from a physical as well as metaphysical (emotional) point of view and it may well mean the difference between resolving the pain issue once and for all or having to live with some degree of pain until your body finds a different and possibly more powerful (painful) way of communicating imbalances and things that aren’t working well to you.
Yoga offers the space for the body to come into its own and learn and process the lessons – sometimes even on a subconscious level. There is eternal wisdom inside your body and with yoga – you’re not trying to get into poses – you’re trying to use poses to get into your body – use it to its full capacity and allow the wisdom in your body to do what it does best – heal itself.
While I appreciate the fact that most people who come to yoga, do so for reasons related to fitness, strength building, improving flexibility, and sometimes relaxation, I always think it so important to emphasize that the physical aspect of yoga is really just a very small part of the practice. I know – its GREAT to feel the physical changes in your body when you practice yoga regularly. Who doesn’t love to lose weight, see their body getting stronger, toned, more supple and not to mention being able to physically do things you never thought you’d be able to do. There is a huge sense of satisfaction and reward in that and I don’t want to take away from that element at all. I have personally patted myself on the back a few times for the physical changes that yoga brought to my body– especially during pregnancy – a time when most women have a sense of loss of control over the shape and loss of strength in their bodies.
Looking and feeling physically better is fabulous. But here’s the thing…this is why yoga is so amazing…not only do you look and feel so different – you actually practice things during your yoga that you hardly ever (or never for most of us) get to do elsewhere. You practice attitudes and habits that change your life to a more peaceful and happy place to be.This is what you really practice when you practice yoga:1. In yoga you practice ease in body and mind.
For most of us, ease doesn’t come ….well, easy. We live a life of tension. We ‘try’ to do lots of things and the act of trying creates tension. We are consumed with thoughts around what we should and shouldn’t do or be able to do, and are constantly pacing and chasing. This manifests in our yoga practice – we come in and try to be flexible. We push ourselves to try to get into positions and postures – still plagued by the thoughts telling us – you should be able to do this – why is this so *&%&^% hard? It’s hard because your body is hard and your mind is rigid. You’re plagued with tension, everywhere.
In yoga you practice to ease up, let go of the tension in your body and in your mind. That’s why you feel so great when you practice yoga. It sets you free.2. In yoga you practice being curious about your body and your abilities.
From a young age we are measured against the developmentally appropriate milestones we are ‘meant’ to reach at certain ages. We are constantly bombarded with – this is what you should be able to do now – this is what good enough looks like, this is what not good enough looks (and feels) like. We learn to look at ourselves in that way. Measuring ourselves against some external source that may well be so far removed from who we truly are, that it really is like comparing apples and pears.
In yoga – once you get out of your mind which constantly harasses you with ‘you should’ and ‘you must’ and ‘you could/couldn’t’, you learn to look at yourself and your body and its abilities with a fresh pair of eyes. Like seeing yourself for the first time you can allow yourself to be curious. The good thing about this is that once you allow yourself to be looked at in this different way – your body just about always blows you away. It surprises you with what it is capable of when you meet it with acceptance and kindness. Your own ability to be open, be different, be fresh, be who you really are, surprises you as its so much better than all the expectations that you place on yourself, which doesn’t really mean anything to you. Being curious, like a child, is a refreshing, and life-altering bonus to what your yoga practice brings to your life.3. In yoga you practice loving your body and yourself:
With the practice of being curious, almost inevitably, comes a new sense of appreciation for what you and your body is really about. As a world of possibilities open up in terms of what you are capable of, both physically and mentally, you learn to appreciate who and what you truly are. Getting to know yourself in a way that is different from how you were ‘brought up’ to think about what is good and bad and correct or not so correct according to society’s rules, is liberating and once the acceptance of the amazing, yet different being that you truly are sets in, there is so much more room to love who you are and what you are about. ‘My body is mine and its not only perfect – its amazing’ is not a common frame of mind in this day and age. In yoga you practice to believe and inhabit that space in your mind.4. In yoga you practice gratitude:
Hand in hand with loving your body and who you truly are, comes a sense of gratitude. You are able to be grateful for your body, how it shows up and functions for you every day – despite years of potentially being beaten up by bad habits or negative thoughts. In yoga you practice functioning from a place of gratitude. Every difficult posture teaches you something else about yourself. These lessons improve your life, it helps you learn about how you can choose to change and improve. You therefore learn to be grateful for the ‘discomfort’ – on the mat and out there in life. The discomfort and the challenges shape you and that’s something to be grateful for. You learn to be grateful when the challenge comes…and grateful when it ends.5. In yoga you practice being kind:
You will often hear sayings in yoga like ‘listen to your body’ and while this is a well-intended saying, it can also serve as a cop- out – a get out of jail card – an opportunity to take it easy. Yoga is definitely not part of the no-pain-no-gain- break-your-body-down-before-you-build-it-up-again-its-cool-to-break-your-body-because-that-means-you’re-working-out-properly mentality. Thankfully. It is also not a place to shy away from that which you really need to face in yourself or in your body. So rather than saying – listen to your body – think ‘honour your body’ – with kindness. Honouring your body puts you in a place of knowing what your body needs, and responding in kindness. Listening to your body might sound like have a big slice of lemon meringue at Mug and Bean (because they are biggest and sweetest), but honouring your body might sound more like stay in side plank for 5 more breaths because you need to wake up the fire meridians in your body to cleanse, detoxify and renew and even transform! You approach your body and its needs with kindness and care. You know this is the only body you have. You know that this body has been there from the beginning and will be till the end. You know that when you love something, you care for it with kindness. This is VERY difficult for most people in yoga to get their heads around, because they are consistently plagued by the mentality of not being good enough, strong enough, flexible enough and resenting themselves and their own bodies for not being able to do things. In yoga you practice the opposite. You practice acceptance, and kindness to yourself – all the time and under all circumstances.6. In yoga you practice compassion:
In order to be kind to your body you have to begin to cultivate the most beautiful quality out there: compassion. We lack compassion so much in our daily lives towards each other, because we lack compassion for ourselves. In yoga you practice being compassionate. Your body is tired today? You’re body is restricted, and even paralysed by tension? You don’t condemn and judge yourself, make yourself out to be less than average. You practice compassion….
Your body has been holding tension for you for years. While you ignored it and pretended it wasn’t happening, your body held onto it for you. Have compassion. Have compassion for yourself. Have compassion and know that everyone out there is fighting and inward battle…it’s not always easy. We all deserve a little compassion.7. In yoga you practice patience:
Yoga postures, and the qualities they aim to instill in each of us who take to the mat, don’t come easy. You will always have good and bad days. You will always with the best of intentions not fully get to where you want to be. You will fall out, your mind will wander, you will get angry when you ‘should’ feel compassion and you will get frustrated by slow progress. Certain postures may elude you for years and you will doubt yourself. In yoga you practice patience with yourself. When you learn to be patient with yourself you become patient in general. The world needs more patience.8. In yoga you practice being present:
any good yoga class invites you to take the time to become still and present. 99.9% of our daily lives is spent either in the future – worrying, or in the past, contemplating. Neither of those (the future or past) serves you, as the past is gone and the future might never happen. Being present is a place of freedom, of joy, of pure and utter bliss and release from tension. Because it is NOW – it is what it is – free from anticipation, regret, or worry. It just is what it is. It’s a funny thing to get your head around and we spend years and years trying to learn and appreciate the value of staying present. In yoga you have a great opportunity to be present. Through connecting with your breath and giving yourself permission to let go of everything else out there, you connect to the present moment. Freedom. You begin to see where your mind goes when it does wander. You begin to feel what it feels like, when you do let go, even for a moment. You create a space free of tension in body, mind and soul for your body, mind and soul to be free to be limitless as they were intended to be.9. In yoga you practice how you want to be:
Bringing your body to stillness and then moving in and out of postures with varying levels of difficulty, and addressing various aspects about yourself, and your life on the mat brings you face to face with what you’re really like. How you respond to challenges, how you respond to failures (perceived or not), and success. What motivates you? Are you driven by what others see in you or can you bring your motivation inwards and be your own driving force in a kind and compassionate way? How do you limit yourself – do you give up before you’ve tried and can you overcome your fear of failure and allow yourself to be vulnerable. In yoga you practice being how you really want to be. A softer, easier, kinder, more compassionate, patient and present person.
Read more: http://mype.co.za/new/what-do-you-practice-when-you-practice-yoga/34140/2014/02#ixzz3dLaQysHw
Yoga and meditation has for centuries proved its amazing contribution to healing – physically, mentally and spiritually. Here is the story of a PE women who experienced this first hand.
Lynne Cooper is an amazing woman. I gathered this from brief interactions with her over the first few months I got to know her while she was practicing yoga at my studio. When she left to go on her yearly trip abroad, I never imagined that she would come back being anything other than revitalized and rested. Instead she came back with her ankle and leg in cast, determination to heal that is second to none, and also a peacefulness and quiet resolve to learn the lesson in every moment of the serious injury that she had suffered.
Lynne and her partner had gone travelling around the Channe Islands for seven and a half weeks. The ventured out on adventurous hikes and expeditions as is their hobbie and passion. Six days before returning to South Africa, they had been in less adventurous Eastbourne walking through Gildritch Park – a very typically British Park: very well-groomed, clearly signposted, with clear paths that are disability friendly – no slipping sliding, skidding, or climbing involved. When Lynne was faced with a fork in the road – she decided to – as is her habit – not make too drastic a decision. There was that moment of slight hesitation, a pause, a subtle sense of knowing that something was about to happen. Lynne decided to take the less obvious path….the one that ran in-between the two. There were three log steps on this less than obvious ‘middle path’, and on the second step, she slipped. A sense of nausea came over her and with the impact and severity of the injury, all the energy drained out of her body as her adrenals responded to the shock. She broke her ankle in two places – both the tibia and fibia were broken right by her ankle joint. An injury known as bimalleolar with dislocation. There would only be one injury worse than this bimalleolar fracture. Such an injury would involve the heel and is referred to as trimalleolar.
Lynne was operated on in casualty in England and refused medications offered by the hospital, including morphine to numb the pain. She was adamant she wanted to experience the injury in real time and stay connected to how her body was doing. Throughout the ordeal – during the time in hospital and afterwards all she had by way of conventional medicine was:
- laughing gas at the time when the dislocation of the ankle took place,
- anesthetic when the pins and plates were put into her ankle, and
- Clexane – a blood thinner, which was important for the flight back to South Africa.
Other than that, she took no painkillers, anti-inflammatories or other medications commonly associated with such a serious injury. She had to wait a day after dislocation took place before being operated on and spent that entire time, very tuned in to how she had to hold her ankle so it wouldn’t hurt. She was giving herself no opportunity to hurt her ankle further, by moving it in a way and not feeling the pain due to painkillers.
In England the doctors advised that she rehabilitate herself. That she take it easy and that she shouldn’t expect to be back to normal within four months if not more. Reading more about the kind of injury she suffered, she learned that many end up walking with a limp for about 9 – 12 months after the injury – and some never walk without a limp again. In some cases the swelling doesn’t go down which affects the kinds of shoes people have to wear. There are many, many stories out there about people who have had their lives ruined by an ankle injury and the limitations this kind of injury can bring.
For Lynne – the possibility of her not making a full recovery never crossed her mind. Today – two and a half months later, she is active and walking around – without a limp. She is doing yoga, swimming, cycling and going about her business as she would have if this never happened to her. There is some limitation in terms of the flexibility of her ankle which is due to the pins still being in there, but her ankle is still more flexible than many healthy ankles that pass through my yoga studio. If you didn’t now Lynne had suffered a serious ankle injury, you would never pick that up from the appearance or functioning of her ankle.
This is how she did it:Philosophy of life and mental attitude:
Lynne firmly believes that things happen as they should and any illness, disease or injury such as hers, is a message to you. A message that tells you that something’s got to change – be that in your physical, emotional and or spiritual life. Lynne broke her ankle less than a 100metres from the maternity ward where she was born. Her operation in hospital took place right on the edge of the neighbourhood where she lived right before she immigrated to South Africa. This was significant and played a part in Lynne’s understanding of the injury. She was being stopped dead in her tracks and forced to take stock, stop, re-evaluate and re-assess. The lesson would become clearer in time and will continue to unfold with time.Yoga:
Lynne was operated on, on Saturday the 2nd of November and flew back to South Africa on Thursday the 6th. She started private yoga therapy lessons with me on the 19th and continued to have two sessions a week for four weeks. We had these sessions while Lynne’s leg and ankle was still in cast. Her toes were free to move and the cast ended right below her knee. The day after we finished our sessions for the Christmas break, her cast came off.
I was nervous to work with Lynne. She seemed so adamant to get herself healed and functioning as normal again and I was worried that she would want to push her body – when her body has really given her a clear message that it wanted her to stop. I was very relieved when Lynne agreed with my proposal of gentle movement for half the session, and serious meditation and Yoga Nidra for the second half. I believed it would be good to move the body, keep the parts that haven’t been injured open and flexible and strong. In looking at the body as a whole and recognizing that all parts are connected, I wanted to improve and maintain the healthy functioning of the rest of the body, promote circulation and avoid stagnation. Looking after, nourishing and nurturing the healthy parts, would certainly influence the healing potential of the isolated injury in the ankle.
On a metaphysical level, I also recognized that the body and soul were using the ankle injury to get a message to Lynne. This message was what was most important to the healing process. If Lynne didn’t get the message or even attempt to listen – the injury simply wouldn’t heal or it would heal with other side effects to keep the message alive. I therefore thought that the healing meditation and Yoga Nidra would be the most powerful part of the healing process as it would bring Lynne to a much deeper state of awareness and to a place of ‘listening’ to her body. I also believed that through healing meditations the wisdom within her body, her body’s natural ability to heal itself, would take over and literally – the bones and damaged cells and tissue would heal quicker. Lucky for me – Lynne and I were on the same page and she was ready and willing to go on this journey.
During our very first session we recognized that stagnation, tightness and a decrease in strength had already start to set in and while it felt difficult to do basic movement and stretches, Lynne felt good getting to moving again. Perhaps the extent of the work that lay ahead became evident when she saw how difficult she found movements that previously were seen to be so basic..
The Yoga Nidra we did during that first session highlighted to Lynne that her ankle would be fine. The issue wasn’t a physical one. The ankle was just the message. The message was clear already – there was an issue with Lynne’s ability to move forward and a real need to rethink her life and where she was going. Her journey would be an emotional and spiritual one, more than a physical one.
Our physical practice was very much focused on balancing the earth element in her body – grounding, getting back to basics, feeling safe, secure and contained. Given the fact that her injury took place so close to her place of birth and early life, it seemed to make sense to balance earth. The Yoga Nidra however, highlighted to Lynne that there was ‘darkness’ around her spine – which highlights imbalances in the water element – associated with fear, being indecisive, not being able to ‘flow’ and showing a need to become still in order to acquire knowledge about the self.
Lynne and I continued our half our yoga and half hour meditation sessions over four weeks. We made adjustments to postures and used props to make it as accessible and comfortable as possible. Lynne’s body thanked her:
“Not doing anything would have driven me insane! Yoga 100% helped my body cope with spending 80% of the day lying down. I never had any body or back pain and I could feel the energy that needed to move around and be released in my body were given the opportunity to do so, through the yoga. I also thought – I can’t do anything about my situation so what’s the point in moaning – just get on with it”
Lynne’s guided meditations lead her to visit the actual injury in her body and heal it. It also took her on journeys that enlightened her about the reason for this strong message. She met her late dad as a guide in one of her meditations and was often brought back to the message of ‘going back to source’. She was confronted with the question of living an authentic life – being who she really is, doing what she truly should be doing, and living a life in line with her true values. All big questions and big issues – requiring big messages from the body apparently!Medical Input and Lynne’s response to it
Lynne flew back to SA with her leg in an open cast and had the stitches removed and cast changed to a regular closed cast on the 18th of November. She was able to move her toes and as she knew the ankle was safe in the cast, she moved what she could move – as often as possible. She didn’t take up the advice of the doctors to use crutches, as she didn’t want to mess up her alignment and gait. She focused very consciously on keeping her foot as straight as possible.
“Most people adjust their gait to suit the injury, but then you end up with everything lopsided and out of alignment, which would explain the high incidence of limping. It just means more work to line it all up again.”
“The doctors in England didn’t recommend physio. I know of people who were told by physio to take it easy and not move too much. My theory is move as much as you can. When you feel pain, you know your limit and when to back off. However, most people live on painkillers and anti-inflammatories with an injury such as this – so they don’t know when it hurts, when to stop, when to push and what their body needs.”
Lynne saw an orthopedic surgeon at Mercantile Hospital to assess whether the cast could come off and stay off at the six week mark. This was part of the care plan devised by the doctors in England and she kept to it.
When the cast came off the doctor took x-rays to determine how well the bone had healed and said he would, on the basis of the x-ray, advise as to how long Lynne would need to wait before the foot could start bearing any weight. The X-rays revealed a completely clear and healed bone. The ankle and foot were able to safely bear weight straight away.
Straight from having cast off on the 13th of December, Lynne went to see the chiropractor. “It seemed to make sense – because of the way I have been lying with my leg up for 6 weeks, hopping to toilet, pushing self around on ‘wheelie’ chair and so on, my whole body alignment would be out. I saw Neville Dugmore and he realigned all the bones in the foot, knees, shoulders, and basically brought the entire body into alignment. He said that most people don’t think of coming to chiropractor after such an injury, when really it is an essential thing to do.”
“Energy flows through your body and it is an important part of the healing process. I therefore think it is really important to be aligned.”
“After the cast came off, I used crutches for two weeks only when I left the house, and then started moving without crutches altogether. After a week of no crutches I went to see Neville again as I was now moving around freely without crutches and he again adjusted the bones in the injured foot as well as my knees, hips and lower carriage. He also aligned my ankle joint on this visit.Alternative input
Lynne believed that both bones and muscles needed to be realigned and put into place after the injury and time spent in ‘compromising positions’. She opted for the Bowen Technique to have all the muscles put back into place. The Bowen therapist focused on the achilles tendons, as well as the muscles in the arches of the feet and Lynne has a follow up visit scheduled. Lynne considers this, again, an essential part of healing process: “I wouldn’t even think of not doing it.”
Reflexology: Lynne had reflexology three times while her cast was still on and twice after the cast was removed. While the cast was still on, the reflexologist worked only on the toes of the injured foot, as well as the whole of the healthy foot. These sessions, while painful due toe crystallization that had occurred in organs, in Lynne’s opinion was also essential to the healing process.
“ The reflexologist worked a lot on draining the lymph which is painful too – but you’re not made of glass… so deal with it. By that stage the bone had healed so the pain couldn’t have been serious!”
Other parts of feet was better in the last visit with reflexologist, showing that the organs were clearing and working better again.Alternative Medicine:
Lynne isn’t a big fan of conventional medicine and steered clear of anything that wasn’t natural. Her reasoning is that the chemicals in these medicines affect and slow down her organs as they are required to process these chemicals. She wanted her organs and immune system to be free and clear to deal with healing her body naturally, and basically do what it does better than medicine and chemicals do – heal itself
For Lynne a big part of the healing process was getting back into her body. After an injury or accident of this kind it is almost natural to take yourself out of your body in an attempt to cope with the pain. The long flight home was another way in which she could easily become’ disconnected’ from her body and to combat this, she took Melatonin. She went on to take liver detox capsules to rid her liver of the chemicals from the anesthetic. According to Chinese Medicine the liver rules the muscles, ligaments and tendons and so she really wanted her liver to be in top form.
She further took some Bone Knitting Drops to help the bones to heal and Natruflam, which is a natural anti-inflammatory. Her natural products all came from Nature’s Own Health Shop in Walmer.
Lastly she took Arnica – to release any remainders of shock from her body.Lifestyle and Activities
In keeping with Lynne’s philosophy that moving around in a safe way is good she took up swimming, cycling and got back into gardening. She got in the pool the minute she got home from the chiro on the day the cast came off and found it liberating. She started off by just standing in the pool and then went on to swim breaststroke, made lots of circling movements or just jumped up and down in the water. Crawl was hard at first and she had to constantly remind herself to relax and open – as she does in yoga. The body tries to protect the injury and it is a constant exercise of awareness and letting go and opening up when the body naturally wants to tense up and close off.
Lynne was riding her bicycle two weeks after the cast came off. She just wanted more movement and it gave her a lot of freedom, which, after such a long period in a cast and at home – was also important and liberating. Her ankle didn’t move too much during the cycling, but she just saw it as another way to get more movement in her body going and giving her body healthy and well-deserved exercise.
Lynne got herself some skateboard knee pads to help her crawl around even when her ankle was still in a cast, which allowed her to not only do yoga postures on her knees, but also to crawl around her garden. Gardening is something that she loved doing before the accident, and she wasn’t about to give up all the things that she loved. Staying engaged in this calming and grounding activity was really good for her mental state – apart from bringing more movement to her body.
Lynne returned to yoga on the 13th of January, after a month break and a month during which she no longer had the cast on her ankle. The level movement, strength and flexibility in Lynn’s ankle, already was remarkable. After just two private sessions in which we stretched out the front of the ankle as well as the achilles, tested stability through standing sequences and balances and released the last little bit of tightness, Lynne was walking perfectly normal again with no limp, and she was able to join the group classes again as she needed no particular care or adjustments.
“The more yoga I do and the more active I am the more the swelling has gone down. The pins and plate in ankle is also restricting the movement so pointing and flexing is slightly more limited than other leg. However through a regular yoga practice yoga, it is always improving. “
An amazing recovery indeed.Personal Journey and Learning
There’s been a lot of learning for Lynne through this experience and she continues to live a life of awareness, listening to what the messages from her body, soul and the universe might be. The accident stopped her dead in her tracks, encouraged her to go back to her source – who she is, what she is really about and has encouraged her to seek the life that she truly wants to live. The fact that this happened to her while in her 50’s, for her, means that she didn’t recover this well because she is so young and fit and healthy. She orchestrated and claimed her health back by being proactive, open and involved in the process both physically and spiritually.
At the moment Lynne works as a Holistic Health Analyst and is connected to Nature’s Own Health Shop in Walmer. She mainly sees people who have been unwell for years and years; those who have reached the end of the line when the medical aid is exhausted and the complexities of issues and illness that need to be resolved are severe. She would now like to liaise with Orthopedic surgeons to get in touch with people who are suffering similar injuries such as she had – and get to working with people to help them access all of the range of alternative approaches alongside the contemporary medicine route to heal themselves. She wants to use her own experience to motivate and help people. Health and wellness is not skin deep – looking at the real reason why the injury took place is vital to recovery – and vital to a good quality of life.
Don’t we all want to live a life of purpose and meaning? Do we even know or realize that when we’re not, our body is trying to communicate that to us through a myriad of ways – niggling feelings, things going wrong, physical or emotional issues, problems, illness, and all those events having you feeling you’re life is a battle. What will happen when you begin to listen and act, authentically in response to these messages? Can you afford never to find out?
I find myself in the picturesque little town of Greyton in the Western Cape. Its situated at the foot of the Overberg mountains and we, over the course of three days, have been blessed with both sunshine – allowing us to bask in its powerful, yet soothing rays- and rain, breaking the heat and allowing relief to yogis and nature alike. We “get it” more here – we are all connected.
The Yoga Sanga festival (sanga meaning “gathering”) is just that – a glorious and joyous gathering of about 200 yogis – a term used loosely for people who love yoga: yoga asana, yoga philosophy, yoga clothes, yoga ‘lingo’, yoga attitude – or lack thereof. That is always the first thing that strikes me at a gathering of yogis – the openness and acceptance of whatever or wherever you’re at. Here it is cool not to judge, or be opinionated, or care too much what anyone else does. It’s liberating to be free, even if only for a few days – from the prison we create from other people’s opinions.
I have been fortunate enough to find myself in such gatherings on numerous occasions in various countries around the world. The similarities in topics of conversation in all of these communities are uncanny: “I just love the energy here”; “your aura is so pure”; “I have an energy block in one of my chakras that I’m working on right now” – all of these met with affirmative and empathic nods.
Here too I came across ‘the animal’ conversations: “The mosquitoes are annoying, but in the spirit of ahimsa (non-violence) I wouldn’t dare to swat them” (followed by a nervous and slightly irritated giggle); “I have my toes and fingers crossed that my cat will be okay when I take her on holiday. I give her homeopathic drops to try to ease her stress” (of going on holiday? Yeah, man, its a dog’s life isn’t it!?).
The food conversations are endless: “Are the wraps gluten and/or dairy free?” Asked at the one and only food stall, serving the entire festival with two people manning the stand. Needless to say the question was met with: “No but its made of eureka wheat (Who knows what that is? I probably didnt even spell it right!) so you’ll be fine” (Obviously); “I’m vegetarian – kind of… I only eat animals with 2 feet or less” (i.e chicken and fish).
Not everyone seems to adopt the yogi principles voluntarily: “I’m not allowed coffee or beer and I can’t eat meat….my life is pretty miserable right now” – begrudgingly whispered by the husband whose wife thinks he’s about to willingly convert to the yoga life; and even devout yogis miss a beat sometimes: “I can’t believe I left my gratitude journal at home” (shock and horror on faces all round). The true Cape Tonian yogi exclaims to sympathetic listeners: “I ran out of dishwashing liquid and was mortified as I can only get my brand at Wellness Warehouse!” (Even if supermarkets were open on Sunday the 15th of December – Wellness Warehouse is three hours drive away and it wouldn’t be environmentally friendly to drive that distance for dishwashing liquid.) Thoughtful bunch us yogis are!
Me commenting on these yogi-isms is really tongue in cheek and it is said with the kindest of hearts because while they are amusing in their own right, from what I have observed, they are said with the purest of hearts and intentions and that in itself is so refreshing. It really is true, that in this beautiful enviornment – and with that I am not referring only to the breathtaking scenery- you do feel free, relaxed, released, and content. With the constant awareness around your breath and constant stretching and opening in your physical body there is little room for tension or stress. It is almost frigthening when one realises how much time we spend stressed and in a state of tension – in complete ignorance.
In this environment you are constantly reminded of the amazing and beautiful being that is your true nature. In fact it is enough to bring me to tears when I think how we beat ourselves and others up- day in and day out – survival of the fittest, right? There is an immediate sense of ‘ease’ of ‘coming home’ when we can rest in the knowledge and awareness that our true nature is that of pure love, and eternal peace…and that is about it. When we embody that which we truly are – our world becomes beautiful, restful, calm and easy. The tension, pain, and discomfort takes over because we are constantly engaged in an inner struggle – fighting our true nature.
So the yoga sanga has revived my sense of connectedness with the Divine. It has breathed a sense of calm back into me, knowing that I can go with the flow of life at ease with the fact that whatever is, is perfect. Yoga is so much more than what you do on the mat. Yes, the physical postures on the mat provides a symbolic platform for the challenges or even the ‘battleground’ that life can present as for us, most of the time. It also provides immense insight into how we deal with ourselves and others in this battleground. Most importantly though it prepares you to approach the battleground in a different way: to know that both pleasure and pain will come AND go (whether you seek it or try to avoid it) and, we have a choice in what we hold on to (and how long for) and what we let go of. Most things are more bearable, manageable and tolerable when you meet it with a deep breath, and when that brings you right into the moment – you really are free from your anxieties of tomorrow and chains from yesterday.
Life is better, NOW.
Millions of people the world over practice yoga for all its amazing health benefits. For the majority of these people yoga consists only of physical postures, known as ‘asanas’, which in miraculous ways not only physically stretches tones and strengthens, but it stimulates organ functioning, improves energy levels and flow in the body, and ‘something special’ happens when you practice these asanas – with the deep slow breathing that goes along with it – leaving you feeling calmer, relaxed, more in control of your life and emotions and – just a little ‘better’. So without knowing anything about the underlying philosophy of yoga – the asanas in and of themselves, have been enough for yoga to be one of the fastest growing practices in the West – and a billion dollar industry in the US alone.
For those who like to dig a little deeper, and understand a little more about this ’gift from the East to the West’, there is a treasure chest full of beautiful history and depth of philosophy that seem to come only from the wisdom of the ancient nations. Yoga is not a religion. Some describe it as a philosophy, and others as a science. The principles of yoga is contained in most religions, but Yoga in itself is not a religion. It doesn’t pray to or worship any god, has no creed or formal statement of religious belief. There is no requirement for a confession of faith and no ordained clergy or priests to lead religious services. There is no system of temples or churches and no congregation of members or followers. Yoga doesn’t prescribe anything or aim to convert anyone.
Yoga can be practiced whether you are religious or not. For spiritual people it provides a space to connect to the God you follow or believe in. There is no judgment or prescription about what to believe or who to pray to. Yoga systematically deals with all levels of your being, leading you to a place of deep stillness and silence. From within this stillness and silence you can more fully experience spirituality in the context of your own religion and personal beliefs. It therefore creates space for you to grow closer to your own spiritual roots – even though the practice in itself is not a religion.
Patanjali is a well-known name in the yoga community as his sutras contain the most comprehensive and understandable outline/description of the ‘science’ or ‘philosophy’ of yoga. Yoga means ‘union’ and essentially is the process of uniting those parts of ourselves that should never have been divided – body, mind and spirit. It describes 8 limbs of the yoga philosophy – al geared towards achieving so-called ‘Elightenment’, ‘Self-Actualisation’ or ‘Perfect Unity’. I always think of this ‘Enlightenment’ or ‘Liberation’ as being that place where nothing can really get to you anymore. You get to that realization that you are not ‘of this world’. You are here to experience life – and everything on your path is here to teach you something to bring you closer to that perfect place of peace and harmony. We ultimately are a spiritual beings – created in the image of God. The true and lasting peace and freedom that comes from knowing and owning that – is Enlightenment and Liberation. But I digress….
Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga provide a set of guidelines and a chronological process of stages or levels to master on the path to ‘Enlightenment’ (I use the term ‘enlightenment but you can substitute for what suits your belief system – perhaps peace, ultimate love etc). Many of what is contained in the sutras are contained in different religions and so should resonate with people from different backgrounds. Hence Yoga being such an inclusive practice, with space and acceptance for people no matter what their beliefs or backgrounds.1. The Yamas
– these are guidelines about our ethical standards and sense of integrity and how we conduct ourselves in our lives. Simply put it implies the Golden Rule: Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. They are:
2. The Niyamas
- Ahimsa: non – violence to yourself (self-hatred, low self-esteem, putting up with less than you deserve, putting harmful substances in your body) or to others (incl animals)
- Satya: truthfulness to self and others
- Asteya: non-stealing (stealing in all its forms as we learn from the bible and other religious texts)
- Brahmacharya: continence (exercising sexual restraint and self-control in her senses of the word too)
- Aparigraha: non-covetousness (not excessively desiring something belonging to others)
– Guidelines around self-discipline and spiritual observances. It relates more to the ‘do’s of personal conduct, lifestyle and diet. Examples of Niyamas in practice will be attending temples or church services, having a personal meditation practice, establishing a habit of taking long contemplative walks, creating space for spiritual time and learning. The five Niyamas are:
- Saucha: cleanliness in body and mind
- Samtosa: contentment – being at ease with what is. Knowing things are perfect as they are – you have enough, you are enough, you’re good enough. Being grateful enhances contentment.
- Tapas: Heat; spiritual austerities – this may include spiritual practices such as fasting or whatever is appropriate to you. Tapas literally means ‘ to be strong enough not to be affected by opposites, such as heat and cold and many sees it as discipline determination and grit – perhaps pushing through a difficult asana. However, A better way to understand tapas is to think of it as consistency in striving toward your goals: getting on the yoga mat every day, sitting on the meditation cushion every day-or forgiving your mate or your child for the 10,000th time. If you think of tapas in this vein, it becomes a more subtle but more constant practice, a practice concerned with the quality of life and relationships rather than focused on whether you can grit your teeth through another few seconds in a difficult asana.
- Svadhyaya: study of sacred scriptures and of one’s self. Dedication in whichever spiritual path or religion you follow. Studying and becoming famillar with what you are committed to.
- Isvara Pranidhana: Surrender to your God. This niyama shifts our focus and attention away from ‘I’ and all the distractions that come with the ego. It implies surrendering and receiving the grace and beauty of being alive and connected to out Source. It goes beyond surrender in the darkest depths of despair when there is nothing else left to do and we have hit rock bottom. Instead it is an ongoing consistent practice of getting out of our minds and letting go of our egos, and just connecting, and loving being connected to God.
– the physical element of Yoga to keep the body strong active and toned – and preparing the mind for the later stages. The body is seen as the home of our spirit (My body is my temple). It is therefore an essential part of Spiritual Growth to learn to love and care for the body that so honourably houses your spirit. Through the practice of asanas we also develop discipline and concentration necessary for meditation.4. Pranayama
– developing control over the basic and vital life force – breathing. Yogis believe that this kind of breathwork not only rejuvenates and revives us, but it actually extends life.The first four limbs focuses on us working on our personalities, and mastering our body and breath in preparation for the second four limbs which focus on higher level functions such as the senses, the mind and a higher level of consciousness.5. Pratyahara
– developing control over the five senses . It implies the practice of withdrawing the senses and completely turning the focus inwards. It creates an opportunity to observe ourselves from the outside in. We may begin to be able to notice habits, cravings etc that may not be good for us or be detrimental to our physical or emotional health. These will interfere with our inner growth and development and so are worth observing and addressing.6. Dharana
– bringing the mind to a single point of focus. This involves being able to concentrate on just one thing, i.e. bringing your monkey mind back again…and again…and again…and again….In the practice of Pratyhara we have effectively relieved ourselves of outside distractions and now the task is to relieve ourselves of the interference of the mind. A very difficult task indeed! In order to achieve this we turn our focus to either a specific energetic centre in the body, perhaps God, perhaps you will focus on the silent repetition of a sound. This ultimately prepares us and leads us into meditation – the 7th limb:7. Dyana
– practicing meditation and connecting with your spiritual self. This stage differs from Dharana as it involves being very much aware – but not having a single point of focus. Someone once said that you will find God in the space between your thoughts. During meditation you are working to lengthen the space between thoughts. Connecting to your true self as a spiritual being – to God without the disruptions of your mind, without the need for anything in return. A simple state of being in complete stillness, yet completely aware.8. Samadhi
– This limb is described as Enlightenment/Liberation and also in some texts as Ecstasy. It is the stage where the yogi transcends the self and realizes his interconnectedness with everything else around him. The completion of the yogic path really brings what we experience as perfect peace. No more analysing or rationalizing. No noise in your mind or in your body. No tension within yourself or between you and the word around you because you appreciate and acknowledge we are all one.
The eight limbs of Yoga encapsulate what the yoga philosophy is about and points as much to a journey as anything else in yoga ever does. It’s not just about the postures here – as you can see. Yoga takes you on a journey to peace. It can fit into any spiritual practice of your own and set you on a path of discipline and devotion – a path that leads to peace.
A yoga practice will give you endlessly more than a physical workout. You can adopt one, none or several elements of its philosophy – adjust it to suit your spiritual needs and background. There are no rules in yoga. No judgment about doing it right. There is no end goal other than achieving your own personal peace. No one to tell you are doing it right or wrong. Yoga is yours….and it is everyone’s.
Read more: http://mype.co.za/new/a-crash-course-in-yoga-philosophy/30337/2013/10#ixzz3dLap8OMB
It normally takes some sad event for us to recognize and acknowledge how privileged we are in our health or in our amazing bodies. I sometimes wonder if we fail to recognize, daily, how amazingly we are put together just because we are ignorant and don’t even know half of the cool stuff that goes on inside us. Once you begin to understand the infinite intelligence that you carry around in the cells of your physical, emotional and spiritual body, it’s hard to ever look at yourself in the same way again.
In this wonderful body of yours every cell of physical matter carries with it and is affected by every thought, emotion, attitude, and assumption that you form in your mind. Visceral responses take place in your body as a result of emotional reactions or thoughts in your mind. Yes, all your cells are very intelligently ‘connected’. Consider for a moment – you feel sad and your body produces tears; a situation at work becomes inflamed and stressful and your body responds by developing ulcers, you watch an inspirational video clip and you get goose bumps. The strength of the visceral response your body has to the daily events in your life is simply amazing. These are examples of responses you might notice quite clearly – but what about all the responses we don’t even pay attention to?
Recent scientific studies tested out this ‘connection’ in the cells of the body and found some mind-boggling results. The US army and the Institute of HeartMath carried out experiments in which they separated samples of DNA from the DNA donors (some DNA samples were removed as far as 350 miles from the donors). They then got the donor to experience various emotions by watching a series of video images. The researchers observed both the responses of the donors and the DNA electrically and through microscopes and found that the reactions of the DNA coincided with that of the donors, at exactly the same time as when the donor experienced emotions: the double helix spiral of the DNA contracted exactly at the same time as when the donor experienced negative emotions such as anger, sadness or fear, and some DNA codes even switched off. When the emotions in the donor were positive, the DNA strands relaxed and lengthened. It is no wonder then that the field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) has firmly established a scientific link the between stress and almost every other major disease – including allergies, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, infertility, irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcers, and strokes. Remember that stress is our own response to our environment. It comes about because of what we think and feel about our external circumstances….our body responds with major diseases if our perception of our environment causes too much stress, fear, anger and anxiety.
So in short – our cells, our bodies and our DNA are significantly affected and altered – possibly even shut down by our thoughts, feelings and emotions. Because we choose our thoughts and emotions, what we choose to think and feel determines the health of our physical body. When we think negative thoughts, feel consistently unhappy, sad, alone, deprived, exhausted and stressed – our body responds by getting ill. Our body is communicating with us – telling us that something has to change.
Knowing that you create your own illness or dis-ease can be a scary concept, but it can also be very empowering. If it is true that we can make ourselves sick with negative emotions, stress, and unhelpful thought patterns, it is also true that we can prevent illness and heal ourselves with positivity, love and kindness.
Your body is always communicating with you. Symptoms, therefore, are not just irritants to get rid of with paracetamol or antibiotics or surgery or chemotherapy. They are messages that you need to learn to understand. When you get sick, ask yourself: “what is out of balance which my body needs to draw my attention to?” Modern medicine does wonders in curing diseases – but healing comes only when you have addressed the symptom as well as the source. Your body created the illness as a helpful message to you – the more serious the illness, the more urgent the message.
You can see the value of being able to understand your body’s messages, right?Here is how to develop your connection with your body and become super sensitive to those helpful messages being communicated to you:
- Listen to your body. Your body gives you very early warning of situations, people, circumstances that evoke stress or tension in you. Notice how your body reacts in certain situations – when you get a sense of contraction in your stomach, in your throat, when you feel your breathing becomes tense or laboured other than because of physical exertion, you may start off by just noticing discomfort. Notice tension in your jaw, your hands, your back and shoulders. What exactly is it that evokes this response in your body? What can you do to alleviate the tension? Can you soften and beautify your response to it or do you need to walk away from this for good?
- Look after your body. Refuel with the goodness from nature to keep it healthy, firing, active, and alert. Your body is your health watchdog – but if it’s constantly bogged down trying to deal with the dirty fuel you choose to fill it up on, it will have difficulty communicating about more subtle issues. Love your beautiful body and nourish it with both the kind of food and the positive attitude you would feed the people you love most. Remember – just as your mind/thoughts impact the cells in your body, so too do the cells in your body influence your mind. You have a better chance at positively engaging your thoughts and attitudes if your body is firing on all cylinders.
- Choose to create positive thoughts and responses to the outside world. It really is that simple…. it may not be easy, but it’s that simple. You’re only a victim of your circumstances when you don’t choose to respond from a positive perspective.
- Yoga and meditation are surefire ways of learning to connect to and love your body in a deep and profound way. It also relieves stress, improves focus and awareness (so you can pick up on those subtle messages) and teaches you about yourself and how you respond to triggers in your life. Give it a try and reap the rewards that millions around the world do already.
Whatever your course of action is, let there be some course! Start now, today, pay attention to what your body is telling you. Your health depends on it.
Get in touch with Tanya to discuss how Yoga can contribute to your health and wellness
Believe in miracles – because you are one. Once you begin to understand the infinite intelligence that you carry around in the cells of your physical, emotional and spiritual body, it’s hard to ever look at yourself in the same way again.
In this wonderful body of yours every cell of physical matter carries with it, and is affected by every thought, emotion, attitude, and assumption that you form in your mind. Visceral responses take place in your body as a result of emotional reactions or thoughts in your mind. Yes, all your cells are very intelligently ‘connected’. Consider for a moment - you feel sad and your body produces tears; a situation at work becomes inflamed and stressful and your body responds by developing ulcers, you watch an inspirational video clip and you get goose bumps. The strength of the visceral response your body has to the daily events in your life is simply amazing.
Recent scientific studies tested out this ‘connection’ in the cells of the body and found some mind-boggling results. The US army and the Institute of HeartMath carried out experiments in which they separated samples of DNA from the DNA donors (some DNA samples were removed as far as 350 miles from the donors). They then got the donor to experience various emotions by watching a series of video images. The researchers observed both the responses of the donors and the DNA electrically and through microscopes and found that the reactions of the DNA coincided with that of the donors, at exactly the same time as when the donor experienced emotions: the double helix spiral of the DNA contracted exactly at the same time as when the donor experienced negative emotions such as anger, sadness or fear, and some DNA codes even switched off. When the emotions in the donor were positive, the DNA strands relaxed and lengthened. Other experiments found that the pH balance of water changed when someone focused their attention and emotions on it – even if the person was just in the vicinity of the water. Japanese scientists found that expressing negative emotions into water created distorted water crystals, whereas expressing loving emotions, created beautiful symmetric water crystals. This implies that the cells in our own bodies are also connected to energetic cells outside of our body – we have even more power – we influence not only what goes on inside us – we influence and impact what we focus on around us!
Given that the body consists of 70% water and contains thousands of miles of DNA – research clearly suggests that both might be affected by what we think and how we feel. We’re all familiar with multiple research studies proving the placebo effect – again drawing attention to the mind and it’s power in creating what is observed - our perceived reality. The field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) has firmly established a scientific link the between stress and almost every other major disease – including allergies, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, infertility, irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcers, and strokes. Now remember that stress is our own response to our environment. It comes about because of what we think and feel about our external circumstances….our body responds with major diseases.
So in short - our cells, our bodies and our DNA are significantly affected and altered – possibly even shut down by our thoughts, feelings and emotions. Because we choose our thoughts and emotions, what we choose to think and feel determines the health of our physical body. When we think negative thoughts, feel consistently unhappy, sad, alone, deprived, exhausted and stressed – our body responds by getting ill. Our body is communicating with us – telling us that something has to change.
Knowing that you create your own illness or dis-ease can be a scary concept, but it can also be very empowering. If it is true that we can make ourselves sick with negative emotions, stress, and unhelpful thought patterns, it is also true that we can prevent illness and heal ourselves with positivity, love and kindness. Awesome! Power back to US!!
Your body is always communicating with you about your general state of health and wellness and this includes emotional health. Symptoms, therefore, are not just irritants to get rid of with paracetamol or antibiotics or surgery or chemotherapy. They are messages that you need to understand. When you get sick, ask yourself: “what is out of balance which may body needs to draw my attention to”. Modern medicine does wonders in curing diseases – but healing comes only when you have addressed the symptom as well as the source. Your body created the illness as a helpful message to you - the more serious the illness, the more urgent the message.
You can see the value of being able to understand your body’s messages right? Here is how to develop your connection with your body and becoming super sensitive to those helpful messages being communicated to you.
1. Listen to your body. Your body gives you very early warning of situations, people, circumstances that evoke stress or tension in you. Notice how your body reacts in certain situations – when you get a sense of contraction in your stomach, in your throat, when you feel your breathing becomes tense or laboured other than because of physical exertion, you may start off by just noticing discomfort. Notice tension in your jaw, your hands, your back and shoulders. What exactly is it that evokes this response in your body? What can you do to alleviate the tension? Can you soften and beautify your response to it or do you need to walk away from this for good?
2. Look after your body. Refuel with the goodness from nature to keep it healthy, firing, active, and alert. Your body is your health watchdog – but if it’s constantly bogged down trying to deal with the dirty fuel you choose to fill it up on, it will have difficulty communicating about more subtle issues. Love your beautiful body and nourish it with both the kind of food and the positive attitude you would feed the people you love most. Remember – just as your mind/thoughts impact the cells in your body, so too do the cells in your body influence your mind. You have a better chance at positively engaging your thoughts and attitudes if your body is firing on all cylinders.
3. Choose to create positive thoughts and responses to the outside world. It really is that simple…. it may not be easy, but it’s that simple. You’re only a victim of your circumstances when you don’t choose to respond to from a positive perspective.
4. Yoga and meditation are surefire ways of learning to connect to and love your body in a deep and profound way. It also relieves stress, improves focus and awareness (so you can pick up on those subtle messages) and teaches you about yourself and how you respond to triggers in your life. Give it a try and reap the rewards that millions around the world do already.
Whatever your course of action is, let there be some course! Start now, today, pay attention to what your body is telling you. Your health depends on it.