You know I love this practice of yoga.It amazes me every day! Not only is it a physical practice, but it is also a breath-centered practice, a meditative practice and a practice that can completely inform, affect and transform the way we live our lives, if we allow it to.
The Yoga Sutras lay out for us the 8 limbs of yoga, which in fact include asana(the poses essentially), pranayama (the breathing essentially), dhyana (the meditation, preceded by bringing our sense awareness inward, concentrating on one thing, like the breath, and merging with that item of concentration).But before all of that are guidelines for living - a moral code, if you will – the yamas and the niyamas.
Given the popularity of the physical practice of yoga, I feel like the yamas and the niyamas are given a bit less attention.I like to think of the yamas and the niyamas as the “10 commandments” – guidelines for living your life – as they relate to your interactions with yourself and the world around you.And while I’m not going to go into each one of them here (each could be a Bliss Bite on its own), I want to bring to light the power of living your yoga off the mat.It’s something that I’m always working on, and have been focusing on in my classes this past week.
We work so diligently on our mats for 60-90 minutes to stay focused and aware, to feel our bodies and to try to stay present and mindful of our experiences in the poses, honoring our capabilities so that we don’t injure ourselves, finding deep acceptance and contentment as we meet ourselves in the poses as we are.It’s beautiful to witness and experience all of that unfold.And then we walk out of the studio and life starts to happen. So easily we start to slip back into our regular habits of multi-tasking and rushing, disconnecting and judging.All the sensitivity and awareness we cultivated on our mats manages to fall away as the emails and texts come in, as work and other responsibilities and distractions start to seep back in.
So my questions to myself and my students in class are:
How can we bring our yoga off the mat and into our day-to-day lives in a more consistent and conscious way?
How can we show up for the emails and texts, for the demands of our work and family with the same sensitivity, awareness, presence, grace, patience,and acceptance that we find on our mats?
One way that I’ve been trying is through the power of intention. Often in yoga classes we are invited to set an intention at the beginning of our practice and to use the intention as a guide for our practice: something we hope to cultivate through our practice – like slowing down, maintaining the connection with our breath. Well, if we can do that for our yoga -asana practice, why can’t we do that for our life-asana practice?
So that’s what I’ve been doing. Each morning that I journal, I write down what my intention for that day is.Here are a few that have been guiding me over these last few weeks:
To slow down & be gentle with myself
To pause, breathe and then act
To move slowly and thoughtfully
To not demand perfection of myself or anyone
To stay open and to share from my heart
To pause and notice what I’m feeling
To dial down the self-judgment
And just like I practice again and again triangle pose or downward dog, I keep reminding myself of the intention for the day and keep practicing – How can I move more slowly and thoughtfully? How can I dial down the self- judgment?…it’s an on-going practice! Some moments I feel completely connected to and guided by my intention and they feel like really great, connected moments –moments when I feel like the best version of me.And other times I forget my intention – and it’s in those moments that I feel off, yucky, scattered, cranky, re-active. It’s been interesting to observe.
And so, I invite you to do the same….What is one intention that you’d like to explore today or this week as a guiding light to how you interact with yourself and the world around you? Write it down and see what it’s like to practice living that intention – to practice living your yoga!
If you are willing, share your intention on our Facebook Page – I’ll be doing the same!
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