It’s been a long journey for me to love my body and yoga has helped me get there. I’d like to share some of that learning with you in this blog. How can yoga help you become more compassionate and loving towards yourself?
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
Most people in the Western world discover yoga through Asana, the postures. However, Asana, the practice of the physical postures, is just one of the eight limbs or steps of yoga. In my blogs, I’m going to introduce you to these different steps and how you can integrate them into your life and have a more caring, loving relationship with yourself.
Each of the eight limbs of yoga is like one branch of a tree . . . Taking care of each of the branches, helps the whole tree to grow.
Patanjali, the founding father of yoga, is thought to have lived somewhere between 2200 and 2500 years ago. Through his clarity, intelligence and compassion, Patanjali offers us guidance on the art and science of living and evolving as human beings. Through his 196 yoga sutras or threads he outlines eight practical steps towards enlightenment or self-realisation. The way I have explained this to my students is that through practicing the eight limbs, we can evolve to be the best person we can be on this planet. All the limbs or guidelines need to be woven together. A tree analogy is useful here. Each of the eight limbs of yoga is like one branch of a tree. As each branch grows and become stronger, so the tree thrives with its roots deep in Mother Earth. Its leaves draw energy from the sun and grow increasingly lush. Taking care of each of the branches, helps the whole tree to grow. As we integrate the different limbs within our lives, subtle shifts in self-perception begin to take place. The eight limbs outline a transformative path towards self-realisation. At the beginning there are values and ethics, which are followed by the integration of the physical practice of yoga with the breath. These first four limbs prepare us to enter progressively deeper states of meditation, leading ultimately to the eighth limb, spiritual union. So let’s begin to experience the first limb of Patanjali’s eightfold path, Yama, the practice of universal moral principles. There are five Yama, the first of which is Ahimsa, non-violence.
How does Ahimsa apply to me?
Kindness is at the heart of Ahimsa.
Ahimsa teaches us that all creation is sacred. At a practical level it means living in a way that causes least harm to other beings. Kindness is at the heart of Ahimsa. As well as extending compassion to all beings, we need to practice Ahimsa in relation to ourselves. This is what I’d like to focus on in this blog . . . so how do we do this? Whenever a beginner joins a class, I always remind everyone of the non-competitive essence of yoga and listening to our bodies. Think about taking real good care of your body. If it doesn’t suit your body that day, that week or month, then simply practice a modification. Different options for a stronger or a more gentle practice are always offered in my classes. This is to keep you safe and well: to encourage you to practice Ahimsa. You enjoy and benefit from a yoga practice that suits your body at any given time.
The wider benefits of yoga
Yoga subtly guides you to make better choices in your daily life.
Over time yoga practice helps your body become more flexible, supple, comfortable and stronger. When you start dialoguing with your body, you develop a more highly tuned body-mind connection. You begin to sense that maybe that extra glass of wine or slice of cake isn’t exactly what your body really needs right now! Or you go out for a walk, cycle or run on the wettest of days because you know your body needs that exercise after a day stiffening up WFH. And I have been there showing solidarity in this lockdown by sharing my 'daily exercise' on social media. If you don’t believe me, there is a short video on my Instagram feed of a local walk, well actually more like a slog, that I did in driving sleet at the end of January. That particular road is aptly named Long Walk! Yoga subtly guides you to make better choices in your daily life. It is not a quick fix, but what yoga does offer is an improved relationship with self, such that you start to take better care of both body and mind.
A healthier, happier you in 2021
This past year has been extremely challenging for all of us at so many levels. 2021 offers an opportunity to get back on track: to help your body be the best it can be at any age. Why not join one of our affordable online or small group outdoor or private one-to-one yoga classes this spring? You can start to practice Ahimsa in relation to yourself, and take the first steps on a transformative yoga journey towards a healthier, happier you.