Yamas and Niyamas

As promised I am going to share some of the lovely philosophy of you with for my next few posts.

Today I am writing about the Yamas and Niyamas, the first two steps on Patanjali’s eightfold path of yoga. The word Yama translates as restraint so they relate to resisting actions which might lead us off the yogic path such as harming others or ourselves or telling lies. Niyama means without restraint so these are actions or ways of being which we should embrace  wholeheartedly.

The Yamas are as follows:

Ahimsa – non violence, non harm.

Sattya – truth, honesty.

Asteya – non stealing.

Aparigraha – non grasping.

Bramacharya – non wasting of energy.

The Niyamas are as follows:

Saucha – cleanliness.

Santosha – contentment.

Tapas – discipline.

Svadhyaya – self study

Ishvara Pranidhana – surrender to the divine.

They are all connected to each other so practicing just one or two is almost impossible, they can also often contradict each other in a given situation so we need to look at how they can best be used. Practicing one completely might not be the best outlook, as an example it might hurt someone to tell them the truth so Sattya and Ahimsa come up against each other. Maybe long term less harm would be done by telling the truth anyway despite the fact that it causes short term pain or maybe there is no gain in telling the truth so it’s best to leave things as they are.

I will explore each one in more depth over my next few posts as these have been so helpful for me in difficult situations that they can only help others by putting them out there. Although we will go through them one at a time remember that they are a whole package of guidelines which can, given enough time and space, assist us in finding the right path. The more we live by these guidelines, the closer to consciousness we will become.

It is easy to think of them all in relation to our interactions with other people and indeed, they are very valuable in that regard but I often need to remind myself that they apply equally to how we treat ourselves and the whole world around us.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

Yoga or Meditation?

I teach two classes on a Thursday night in Braybrook. The first I call Yoga, the second Meditation and Relaxation. This class was previously titled Yoga for the Mind which is a name I personally came up with and preferred, however I changed it so that new students had an idea of what they were going to be doing.

This has recently come up in my inbox when I got my newsletter from Williamstown Yoga who have changed their name to Williamstown Yoga and Meditation. On reading the reasons why I became aware that it was very much for the same reason I changed my class title. In our society Yoga is mostly associated with the physical practices of asana, in the media and indeed in many gyms, commmunity centres and even yoga studios that is the main part of what is taught under the title “Yoga”. When I tell people I am a yoga teacher they usually comment of how fit or flexible I must be. Often the tell me they can’t do yoga because they are not flexible enough. Their mind instantly goes to images of difficult contortions of the body rather than any practices involving the mind or the breath.

In truth while asana is a valid part of what makes up yoga it is only a part, not even the largest part or the most important part. It is one of the steps on the journey – no more and no less. In Patanjali’s yoga sutras he outlines the eightfold path of yoga which includes the following eight practices.

1. Yama – these and the niyamas are ethical practices in living your life according to yoga. There are 5 yamas and 5 niyamas so they are very like the 10 commandments of yogic living. Over the next ten posts I will explore each of these in turn and how they relate to our yoga on the mat and, more importantly, off the mat in our lives.

2 Niyama – see above.

3. Asana – physical postures and practices, what most people in the west think of as yoga. The word asana translates as “seat”so there are many who believe that all of these other postures evolved as a means toward being able to sit comfortably for longer. Why would you want to do that? To meditate of course…

4. Pranayama – breath work, we use the breath a lot in our asana practice and it can also be used as one of the most simple forms of meditation. The breath is the bridge between body and mind, the link in the chain that helps to connect them.

5. Pratyahara – sense withdrawal, now we are moving towards meditation by withdrawing the senses. Our eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin give us loads of information about the outside world. By reducing that input we are able to tune in to our inner world more.

6. Dharana – one pointed focus, now we have withdrawn the senses we begin to focus on the breath or a candle flame or a mantra (there are countless things we can focus on). This is like putting blinkers on the mind and directing it to one thought or process only.

7. Dhyana – the state of meditation. When we sit to meditate we don’t always get there but when everything does come together and you no longer sense your separation from the object of your meditation you reach this state.

8. Samadhi – enlightenment, open to different translations but this is generally acknowledged to be the goal of all of the previous practices. Whether we get there in this lifetime is hard to say and I personally try to avoid talking about it as the “goal” because for me, it’s all about the journey. I prefer to think of it as the horizon. One day we may reach it but for now we are where we are, with what we have and finding peace with that rather than yearning for the horizon is yoga.

So you can see from the above list that asana is only one part of the practices which make up yoga. Some think you need to begin with the yamas and work your way through the list while others think it is better to put them all in place or pick and choose those that work for you. I lean towards this way of doing things as I have found it works for me and for my students. With most people I know beginning yoga with the physical practices I find that over time they develop an interest in more of the philosophy and meditation practices. If you have physical challenges such as illness or an injury you are still perfectly capable of practicing yoga in it’s other forms. In fact meditation and relaxation can be extremely useful in dealing with the pain or discomfort caused by illness or injury.

I am looking forward to exploring all of these aspects of yoga over the next few weeks, if you have any questions about them please feel free to comment on the post or send me an email belinda@yogatogrow.com.au.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

 

Karma

The idea of Karma is mostly misunderstood in our western society. Many see it as a simple equation where you get what you give out into the world, give out love and it will come back to you. Give out anger or hurt and, likewise, it will come back to you. This concept is represented in many religions across the world and provides us with good reason to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. However it isn’t always that simple,  I know many people who are kind, loving and compassionate but face great challenges in their lives. Others seem to cruise through leaving a trail of destruction behind them and which never quite catches up with them.

The sanskrit word Karma actually translates as action, how we affect the world is the product of our actions. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Remember Newton’s laws from your science classes? While this might sound the same as the above definition it is not quite the same. It doesn’t necesarily mean the opposite reaction will come back to you directly. It might ripple outwards, gaining momentum like the following example.

If you smile at a stranger in the street they may smile back at you which follows this rule. However the effects might not stop there. You may have cheered them up enough with your offering of a smile that when they get to where they are going they are in a better mood and treat the people around them to a smile. This can then put all of those people in a better mood and so on so lots of smiles get shared due to your original smile. There is no guarantee that any of these extra smiles will come back to you. It is quite unlikely that they all will. If you had frowned at the person in the street it could have had the same carry on effect creating a little more grumpiness in many peoples day and again, a lot of it would not come back to you directly if any did. So Karma isn’t quite that simple.

When we are faced with challenges which we don’t feel we deserve it can be easy to blame Karma, my father often says  “I must have killed a Chinaman” when this happens to him, meaning he thinks he is somehow cursed with bad luck due to something beyond his control. This attitude of resignation to the current situation can be dangerous as it takes away any sense of responibility for our situation so we can just wallow in our misery rather than getting proactive and seeing what we can do to change it. That is what Karma is, taking action. Doing whatever we can to help ourselves and others to make the world a better place. It is in the present moment – right here and now that we can act. It might be calling a freind for a catch up or visiting a relative you haven’t seen for a while or just smiling at the next stranger you pass in the street. Each little action you take can make a difference not just to yourself but to others around you and people you don’t even know.

In my life I practice Karma Yoga, the yoga of action, by being mindfull of how my words and actions affect those around me. I endeavour to bring positive energy into my interactions with others and I try to catch myself when I start thinking “Why me?” when challenges arise. Instead I look at the problem I am facing and think about how I can act to solve it or reduce it or learn from it.

Sending a smile to all of my readers, those I know well and those I have never met. May it travel far beyond my keyboard and into all of your worlds.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

 

Ashtanga Classes

I have been lucky to attend a couple of classes recently with Lauren from Soulshine Studio, where I teach prenatal, mums & bubs and open yoga classes. Getting to classes is a bit of a luxury as a teacher, funnily enough the very thing that I loved about yoga and that inspired me to train as a teacher has become more challenging as  I teach more classes myself and other things take up my time. I am committing myself to attend at least weekly practices with Lauren for a couple of weeks (or months) in order to fully experience Ashtanga Yoga and all that it offers.

I have thoroughly enjoyed putting myself in someone else’s expert hands and exploring Ashtanga Yoga, a style which I have had very limited experience of in the past. Ashtanga is a physically stronger style of yoga than what I teach and I am loving the challenge of pushing myself a little further, working harder than I do in my home practice and feeling the benefits of this. Lauren has a lovely teaching style and it is a pleasure to explore this style of yoga with her guidance.

Another interesting thing that comes up is an awareness of my habits, I love exploring new or different ways of doing postures or practices to what I am familiar with, stepping out of my comfort zone and mixing things up.

There are thousands of different ways to practice yoga, it is dangerous to think there are right ways and wrong ways. As long as you are practicing safely, I encourage you to explore different teachers and styles as the opportunities arise. Some may suit you very well while others might not be right for you at this time but the only way to find out is by experiencing them yourself.

Of course, if you are lucky enough to have found a particular teacher who resonates with you than keep going with that as long as it feels right and tell others how much you love your yoga, teachers rely on word of mouth more than anything else to keep them in business.

The word Yoga means Union, it is derived from Yoke as in to join together so despite there being so many options when it comes to choosing a teacher or style it is helpful to know that they are all branches of the same family tree with roots in the same earth. Just as in our families there are different personalities and ways of looking at the world and that is what makes us interesting and endearing to each other or sometimes what prevents us from getting along as well with some people as we do with others. Ultimately we are all family or it is all yoga and that is what matters.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx

Holiday Time!

School holidays are here again, hooray!

I love the holidays, they give me the opportunity to spend more time with my kids both out and about and chilling at home. We had a lovely day out on Tuesday and have had some nice quiet days at home as well as some working bees on the renovations, organisation and general tidying up.

We have been blessed with “not too bad”weather for the July holidays so have been making the most of it out and about. Today is very windy which causes some stress around here as we are living under tarps at the moment with our renovations. I just have to keep telling myself that the wind comes and goes and that’s all there is too it. Sometimes I imagine it is just the earth breathing, a big sigh like we sometimes practice at yoga to let go of all of our holding on.

Hope whatever the holidays mean to you, whether it’s less traffic on the roads or time with your children or nothing at all, that you enjoy them.

A reminder that my classes are running as usual through the holidays on Thursday nights at Pennell Hall in Braybrook as well as Mondays at Soulshine in Yarraville. All details including an easy to read timetable are on my yoga classes page.

Love and light,

Belinda

xxx