As the season changes, we are changing right along with it so our practices should change as well. It takes our attention, curiosity and a willingness to know what to change and how to go about it.
The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, which is the foundational text for the philosophy of Yoga, is filled with reminders and practices for us to have a more balanced mind and therefore, a more balanced life. The practice of the 8 limbs is an integral part of Yogic Philosophy and is a way to develop the quality of discernment which is the ability to see all sides of something and in seeing all sides, we are able see more clearly what it is we are looking at.
Regardless of which limb we are focusing on at any given time, all of the 8 limbs are ultimately about balance; in our relationships, lifestyle, body, breath, senses and mind. When we are able to balance two seemingly opposite things, we gain greater clarity. When we are in the center, we can see all sides more easily rather than struggling to see something from one end of the spectrum, so far away from the other side. With this ability to see more clearly, we are more likely to make better decisions.
As part of my practice, I am always thinking about the 8 limbs but there usually seems to be one that needs more attention depending on what is happening in my life. The one resonating at this time is the the 2nd limb which is the niyamas. There are 5 of them but for simplicity’s sake, they can be broken down into the balance between gratitude and growth. Tapas and sauca are related to growth. Yes…we want to change (tapas) and purify (sauca) ourselves. Samtosa and isvara pranidhana are related to gratitude. Yes, we also want to be content (samtosa) and surrender to what we cannot control (ishvara pranidhana). In the middle we have svadyaya which is self-inquiry, self-study and reflection, a very necessary component so that we may determine if and when we are doing too much of one or the other. Therefore, svadyaya is about finding balance and looking deep within to do so. Yet, when we find ourselves struggling, it is important that we seek out another for help with our reflection so that we don’t continue to perpetuate our imbalances, which unfortunately, is our tendency as habit makers.
Anything we do over and over again with consistency, eventually becomes a habit. And habits, even the ones that are good for us, can become a problem if they are not done consciously. What I realized this summer is that I have been ‘growing’ for so many years, that I have slipped away from gratitude and it caused my body to break down. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful for my life and all that I have. But I am talking about living in gratitude, embodying it, slowing down and simply being without worrying about and planning for something more. With so many years of growing a studio, a community, my education and teaching as well as a child, I got in the habit of always creating and doing MORE which served me and many others well. However, I became unaware of my incessant movement towards growth simply because I was too busy doing it all the time. This is the problem with habits. If we are not careful, we become a slave to them. We are no longer in control of them…they are in control of us.
This is why I practice. To keep myself in balance. Awareness is the first step. Once we are aware of a habit, we can change it. My focus for this season is to simply be in gratitude. To slow down and enjoy life. To stop the madness for more. I have decided that I don’t need to know what next year, or the next 5 years look like. Today is enough. I am content. I am surrendering to the now and simply being. I don’t need to grow right now. I am ok just where I am. This is my practice. Maybe yours is just the opposite. Be curious about your life, not judgmental. When we practice, we get to know ourselves better and as we get to knows ourselves better, we make better choices about our health and happiness. Regardless how far we swing out of balance…we just need to recognize the imbalance and then start moving back toward center. It just takes practice.
If you love the practice and philosophy of yoga, you may be interested in the ‘Deepen Your Yoga’ Immersion that I am co-leading in the new year with two of my favorite people, Bekah Turner and Nicole Honnig Eber. If you want to deepen your understanding and practice of yoga, but don’t want to teach or are not sure if you want to, this may be the program for you! Details on this and all of the other great stuff we have coming up can be found here!
With infinite love and gratitude…