Updated: Apr 17, 2019
How often do you practice Yoga? Do you have a regular home Yoga practice? As a Yoga teacher I am quite often asked these kind of questions. I think by some it is assumed that as a #yoga teacher I practice #asana every single day for hours on end. I hate to break the illusion but this isn't true, and I will be honest its not true for the majority of Yoga teachers I know.
That's not to say I do not have my own personal practice, I do. And I also feel that maintaining this is integral to my own development as a teacher and human, and also to the way I teach. If I am not practising what I preach then I am just basically chatting a load of BS. Or that's at least the way I see it anyway.
I also see that practising Yoga daily is in fact a much bigger picture than simply rolling my mat out and taking myself through a physical practice, but in the Western world we often diminish Yoga to the physical practice alone.
Yes asana is very important, but in reality, in answer to the regularly asked question of "how often do you practice Yoga" the answer is in fact daily. Does this mean I physically practice asana daily- not always (to be clear teaching asana to others may be daily but my practice is a totally separate thing). BUT what I do in the way I act, behave, observe is still Yoga- The Eight Limbs of Yoga.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga as written in Patanjalis Sutras detail guidelines for moral and ethical conduct. Within these are the Yamas and Niyamas. The Yamas are more of a generalised code of conduct for #life, while the Niyamas are more personal and individual.
The original idea of this #blog was actually to write about how I create a nice sacred space for myself at home to be able to practice asana, #meditation or #relaxation. However, in typical me style I seem to have gone off track! (I will save that for another blog post then).
The Eight Limbs of Yoga are something that hopefully all #teachers learn in their training. How we then bring them into our own lives, and into our teaching is of course personal choice. But for me this is the true practice of Yoga. Asana is one of the Eight Limbs, but in fact is detailed more in the sense of steady and focused #movement with #breath, and translates to "seat" and is practised with #intention to prepare the body for meditation.
If you practice physical asana/ pranayama/ concentration/ meditation, then yes you are practising Yoga as detailed in the Eight Limbs of Yoga, but there is more to practising Yoga daily than this alone (in my opinion).
I'm not going to list all of the Eight Limbs as this wasn't the intention for my blog (but I will probably write a blog as a summary of the Eight Limbs). For now I will just leave you with some of my interpretation of the ways that I practice Yoga daily, through the Yamas and Niyamas. I would also love to hear your thoughts, or how you have interpret and practice Yoga off the mat too.
Yama- Ahimsa (non harming/violence)
Is a daily choice of lifestyle for me by being a #vegan. I don't believe in the violence towards and harming of animals so have made it my life choice to as far as I can not contribute to, or be any part of this. This is just my personal choice.
I also practice non- violence/harm towards myself by not forcing my body to practice hours of asana daily if that isn't what my body needs. I notice what could be harmful or judgemental thoughts towards myself, and sometimes others if I may be feeling angry or hurt and I correct my thought patterns reminding myself to be #compassionate and #kind- often those who we may not always get along with need this #kindness the most. And practising #selflove and kindness is my interpretation of Ahimsa- it starts with me and if I cant be kind to myself how can I authentically be kind towards others?
Yama - Satya (truthfulness)
Yama - Brahmacharya (none misuse of energy/moderation)
In ancient texts this would refer to celibacy, but in the modern world I interpret it to not overindulging in body or mind, and using my #energy (including sexual energy) in a responsible and respectful way.
Niyama - Tapas (self discipline)
Literally translating to heat or fire. I see this as working towards my #goals in life and what I am #passionate about. This could be linked to my physical #asana practice and also my meditation practice. Having the discipline to get out of bed and dedicate time to these! Also physical asana practice which generates heat or internal fire- agni.
Niyama - Svadhyaya (self study/ self reflection)
One of the Eight Limbs that I love and really resonates with. However, as a very deep and often over thinker I also have to use in mind of the self awareness to not get too caught up with self study and own thoughts! Does that make any sense? Often we are afraid to look within, just be, and reflect- which can manifest negatively through our physical or emotional self.
Essentially the different Yamas and Niyamas can cross over, and having the Tapas (discipline) to passionately continue my self study through texts, others around me, and self reflection is a huge part of my Yoga journey, both past and present.
Niyama - Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender)
Surrender to a higher power, however we may see that. For me it is not a religious interpretation of a specific figure or God. In fact if I am honest I am not entirely sure what it is- its an energy. It is trusting that #Yoga found me when it was right, it connects me through this Universal energy that is both within and without us all, to others as a blessing (or a lesson sometimes). To let go, and #trust that everything is as it should be in this moment (though that can be a tough one sometimes)!
The Eight Limbs of Yoga could be interpreted differently by each of us, most likely depending on previous life experience and also what we may have going on in life right now. Maybe some will resonate with us more than others. Maybe for some people their Yoga does lean more towards the physical practice of asana only, maybe some people are practising aspects of the other limbs of Yoga without even realising it.
For me Yoga is a #journey, and constant learning process- involving physical aspects yes, but also involving more deeper #philosophical aspects. Reminding myself of the Eight Limbs of Yoga and my interpretation of these (which can be ever changing also), is a hugely important part of my Yoga practice, both on and off the mat.
Until next time...