"Yoga is not about being flexible...yoga is a way of life"
What scares you the most?
What scares me most is unfulfilled potential - the thought of being on my deathbed and wishing I had left that job and followed my dreams. At 26, I was in a 'good' job that provided me with stability, career progression, a 'good' pension and, as I was told multiple times, a great career for women so you can have the school holidays off with your (future) children. I should have been happy and satisfied. I had followed the formula laid out by society, yet I was yearning for more. I would question what was wrong with me? Was I missing the secret to life or happiness? Was everyone feeling this and pretending not to be? Here are some of my learnings and realisations thus far and how the practice of yoga guided and continues to guide me.
We are blindfolded as we navigate our way through life, ignoring the beauty of the journey, solely focused on the outcome.
We are swimming deeper and deeper into the ocean, struggling to breathe in its depths.
We are on the conveyor belt of life, believing that the next thing will make us happy, yet once we get that thing, we find ourselves longing for more.
There is a void that we are trying to fill or mask.
This is not a healthy or fulfilling way to live a life, as so many are realising. We are waking up. We are asking the right questions. We are ready to make changes. How can we come up for air? How can we get off the conveyor belt? How can we live the life we dream of?
This is where yoga comes in.
Yoga teaches us that happiness does not come from external sources but that it lives inside us; if only we would take some time to uncover it.
My yoga journey began when I realised that no matter what I achieved or bought or did, I was never truly satisfied. My job gave me more stress than joy. I was so sick of wishing away the working week and living for the weekend. It meant I was always in the future or found myself dwelling on the past. I knew there had to be more to life. I could feel it deep in my bones.
Yoga gave me the tools to pause, to reflect, be present.
After travelling to India to study yoga, I was in awe. I discovered that there were eight limbs of yoga that still ring true in today's modern world. How could these principles from thousands of years ago still apply today? And why weren't people aware of the eight limbs of yoga? Why was everyone so focused on the physical and ignoring the beauty of the other seven limbs? So began my mission to take yoga off the mat and teach my students what yoga truly is.
Yoga is not about being flexible. Yoga is not about having the latest leggings. Yoga is not about having an expensive yoga mat. Yoga is not about how you look. Yoga is not about the colour of your skin. Yoga is not about how much money you have. Yoga is not about chai tea (PSA - chai means tea, so chai tea = tea tea). Yoga is not about turmeric lattes. Yoga is not saying Namaste. Yoga is not merely about the physical postures.
Yoga is about presence. Yoga is about the study of the self. Yoga is about breathing. Yoga is about stillness. Yoga is about gratitude. Yoga is about introspection. Yoga is about love. Yoga is about peeling the layers and uncovering your true self. Yoga is about finding inner happiness. Yoga is hard. Yoga is deep. Yoga is beautiful. Yoga is a lifestyle. Yoga is a way of life.
Yoga truly is a life-long journey that will have many ups and downs, and that is normal. It was never meant to be easy, but it's so worth it. Once you're able to apply all the limbs of yoga to your life in a way that works for you, you'll be able to truly take yoga off the mat and bask in its many benefits consistently. Your life will feel purposeful and fulfilling. That void will no longer exist as you remove your mask(s).
I will outline the limbs of yoga, and over the next few months, we will dig deeper into each as we uncover their lessons and gifts.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
1. Yama - (yah-muh) - social principles
● 1.1 - ahimsa - (a-him-sah) - non-violence
● 1.2 - satya - (saht-yah) - truthfulness
● 1.3 - asteya - (uh-stay-ah) - non-stealing
● 1.4 - brahmacharya - (brah-muh-char-yuh) - celibacy or non-indulgence
● 1.5 - aparigraha - (ah-pah-ree-grah-hah) - non-possessiveness
2. Niyama - (nee-yah-mah) personal principles
● 2.1 - saucha - (sow-chah) - purity or cleanliness
● 2.2 - santosha - (san-toh-shah) - contentment
● 2.3 - tapas - (tah-pahs) self-control
● 2.4 - svadhyaya - (svahd-yah-yah) - self-study or introspection
● 2.5 - ishvara-pranidhana - (iah-vah-rah prah-nee-dahn-uh) - devotion or surrender
3. Asana - (ah-sah-nuh) - still and steady posture
4. Pranayama - (prah-nah-yah-muh) - extension / expansion of prana (vital life force)
5. Pratyahara - (pruh-tyah-hahr-uh) - withdrawal from sense organs
6. Dharana - (dhaar-uh-nah) - concentration
7. Dhyana - (dhyah-nah) meditation
8. Samadhi - (suh-mah-dee) - moksha/liberation
Before I go, here are a couple of ways to take the physical practice of yoga off the mat.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Most of us are disconnected from our bodies. We live from the neck upwards with our bodies being something that takes us from A to B, something that we need to fill with food and drink and the thing that houses our mind. Don't get me wrong, the mind has its place, but our bodies carry so much wisdom and knowledge that we aren't tapping into. I am constantly telling my students to listen to their body during my yoga classes. What do I mean by this? Listen to what it wants and needs in that moment. Listen and start to trust it. Start to tap into your heart space, your gut, your intuition and all the other wonderful parts. When you were little, you were in tune with your body. You knew what you did and did not want. You knew what felt good and what did not. But years of conditioning has erased that inner knowing. And it's time to get back to your true self. So as you go through your day, stop and check in with your body. Ask yourself, does this feel good? What does my body need in this moment? Where do I feel this in my body? What is my body trying to tell me?
"Yoga takes you into the present moment - the only place where life exists" - Patanjali.
Being present is the essence of yoga. It is why you feel so wonderful after a yoga class - because, for the majority of that hour, you are fully present and aware of your mind, body and breath. Nothing else matters. Being in the moment takes practice and awareness. During asana practice or meditation, when we notice our attention has wandered, we gently bring it back to the breath or body. You can start to bring this level of awareness into your daily tasks. For example, when you're brushing your teeth, focus on it fully or when you go for a walk, fully immerse yourself in your surroundings using all of your senses. We are so often stimulated by screens or are doing ten things at once whilst moving 100 miles an hour. Instead, take time to focus on one thing at a time, slow down and be fully present on that one thing. We also tend to spend a lot of our time living in the past or the future, yet neither of these times exist. Begin to notice when you are ruminating on the past or becoming anxious about the future and bring yourself into the present - the only moment that exists.
With love and gratitude,
Article written for Ekotex Yoga. Visit www.ekotexyoga.com to see more and get 10% off with my code 'MWC10'