The word yoga brings many different meanings to each individual. There are many that practise yoga, merely as a form of exercise striving for the perfect yoga body. Others are looking for their 60 minutes of peace, just for themselves in a world that is fast paced and constantly changing.
More and more I find that the benefits of yoga stretch further than just to the mat I place my feet on. The philosophy of yoga is built on what are called the 8 limbs of yoga, and the Yamas and Niyamas (the first and second limbs) give us guidance on ethical living and self-discipline.
These teachings are truly where I find that I can take yoga with me as I move through the challenges of daily life.
Here are my top four yogic philosophies for day to day living:
Sounds easy right! Aparigraha is the Sanskrit word in yoga meaning non-grasping. This was and is probably the lesson I learn over and over again. I remember sitting listening to our teacher and two situations came to mind immediately. For me, it was great reminder about not holding on physically but also mentally.
In 2007, I left the London for a big Australian adventure and to do this I had to reduce 27 years’ worth of stuff into one 75litre back pack. It was a very strange process sorting through clothes, shoes and personal items and literally throwing them out, giving away to friends or donating. The whole process of downsizing took about 6 weeks and the night before I was due to leave I sat on the floor of my childhood home and was in awe of that backpack. It was first time I truly realised that we spend so much time filling our lives was material objects that are quite unnecessary. My whole world fit inside this backpack, I was free to go and be whoever I wanted.
On the flip side, when I looked at what letting go meant for me on an emotional level, the best example I can share with you is that of my parents.
My parents split when I was very young. My father was absent for a large part of my childhood and my mother worked full time in the fashion industry. I was lucky to have a large extended family and grew up surrounded by teenage uncles and aunts, and spent a great deal of time with my beautiful grandmother who I adored. However, there was still a part of me (especially as I hit my teens) that witnessed a longing in my heart for the cookie cutter 2.4 family unit.
I longed for a mother who would be home when I returned from school, whom made dinners and asked about my day and a father who had time and interest in what was new and evolving in my world. This was very far from my reality and as I matured into my 20’s I found there was a dark corner of my heart that held resentment to them both.
Through my practice of yoga, meditation and personal development it occurred to me that the only way for me to find peace and be able to release the resentment I had held for all these years was to accept my parents exactly as they are.
I won’t lie to you, this resolution did not happen overnight and still today in moments of frustration and complex communication. I still have to take myself back into my heart space and ask for peace and forgiveness to be at my side while I navigate through family moments. But I can say, that my relationships with both my parents have changed and improved tremendously, once I let go of the hurt and disappointment, and acknowledge them both a humans on their own journey, doing the best they can each day.
Tapas translated is said to mean heat. It is the fire, excitement and dedication that comes from within. Whether it be your career, family or community. When your tapas is ignited you are clear on your path and have a deep understanding that your direction will not only positively impact you but also a great gift for you to share and impact others.
Finding your tapas can be a lifelong journey for some of us. However, if we are looking to find what it is that ignites our hearts and souls, we must create space to sit and listen.
A great way to do this is through meditation, journaling or simply getting outside in nature to unplug from out headphones, iPhone, technology and social media. It’s amazing how incredible hard this can be in the current instant culture that we are exist in
I hear very often from yoga and coaching clients that they can’t even pinpoint what they enjoy, let along what they are passionate about. They only way to find out, is to go and try. Sign up for that dance, yoga or coding class. Join a meetup group and go to free seminars or maybe even just explore your city on your own.
Each time you try something new is an opportunity not only to find out what it is that lights you up, but also to meet knew and like-minded people.
What could be more wonderful than finding your passion and sharing it with the world? This is a true connection to soul self and it is your responsibility to bring your gifts and share them positively.
When I am faced with decisions each day, I consciously connect to myself and ask if this decision will stoke and increase my passion and energy or will it drain and detract from where I want to be.
Ahimsa is probably the most well-known of the yamas and is directly translated meaning is close to that of non-harming. In the yoga world this is often talked about in response to dealing with others with compassion and grace.
It is also often linked to non-violence against animals and many correlate this particular philosophy with the choice of many yogis to follow a traditionally vegan diet.
Ahimsa was one philosophy that I really struggled with and at times if I’m honest still do. It is very easy at times for us to be compassionate to others, to take a breath and speak from our hearts in a loving way, even in moments of heightened emotion.
Where I became stuck was having that thoughtfulness and compassion with myself. Would I really speak to another being the way I have spoken to myself over the past 36 years? And the answer was a most definite no!
Negative self-talk had become such a part of my day to day life that it was most definitely the norm. My biggest challenge with living the philosophy of Ahimsa was to change (over time) the way I spoke to myself and to do so with the compassion and love that I showed others every day.
Notice how you are speaking to yourself. In those moments that you find yourself being critical or detrimental, take a deep breath and forgive yourself. Then bring to mind three things that you make you unique, that you love and are grateful for about yourself. You’ll notice a difference after only a few days of this practise.
Yoga is more than than a workout, more than asana and a way to relieve stress. It is a philosophy that can guide your entire life, if you are open to let it.
This article was first published on the Yoga Mail on the 17th May 2016.