Most of us go to yoga with our body and spirit in mind. I go for the workout, and for the sense of enlightenment I can only get by pressing my body to the edge of what I think is possible for myself and balancing there. It is a feeling we are all familiar with—being in a challenging posture and breaking through to something a bit surreal. Sometime’s it’s so calming, you emerge as if you just woke up. Awakened and fresh.
But coming away from the warm yoga room with the beautiful music and a comfortable mat can be tricky. I sometimes lie in Savasana making lists for what I need to do next. My laundry. Grocery shop. Organize this or take care of that. It’s something I know we all do, and sometimes it can be the hardest part of yoga—taking the practice off your mat.
I dove into Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra the other day to re-examine the 8 limbed path. Written in 200 CE, Yoga Sutra lists 8 steps, or limbs, to Enlightenment: Yamas (Restraints), Niyamas (personal observances), Asana (posture), Pranyama (breath), Pratyahara (turning inward), Dharana (focus), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (oneness, union, enlightenment).
Of course each of these limbs requires a lot of attention and taking your practice off the mat can be overwhelming. So where do we start?
Although a slice of the 8 limbed path, I’ve found the Niyamas to be a positive place to start when incorporating your practice into your daily life.
Here are some ways to take your personal observances and apply them to your everyday.
1. Saucha (Cleanliness)
Cleanliness is something I feel we’re all practicing daily in the physical sense. But this Niyama isn’t only about showering daily. Make sure you’re surrounding yourself with purity as well. Take any negative thoughts of the day and spin them into positives. Make sure you allow negative people in your life the space and compassion they need. If they are toxic, acknowledge their positive value and release any attachment or backlash you might feel from their negativity. You control the light that surrounds you.
2. Santosha (Gratitude)
Contentment is something we all strive to feel, but day to day it can be hard to find. Ask yourself if you really need things to change to be happy, right now in this moment. Are you putting too much importance on what isn’t? Are you appreciating your personal path or are you focused on the success of others? Everyone’s path is unique to them. Find gratitude in the opportunities presented to you. We are luckier than we think, even on our worst day.
3. Tapas (Self Discipline)
The word Tapas refers to the heat in our bodies. It can be the physical heat we generate during exercise, use of Ujayi Pranayama breath, or the heat of our inner energy. Tapas challenges us to direct this inner fire toward positive transformation. Ignite a flame to cook dinner every night. Use your spark to write the novel you’ve been wanting to write. Use your inner sun to burn up any obstacle on your path to peace and find comfort in the warmth you generate for yourself.
4. Svadyaya (Self Study)
Self-awareness is a hard thing to attain. For many it can cause anxiety and fear. If you’re feeling irritated or sad, ask yourself what you really need in order to feel better. Most of the time, it’s not the apology from your neighbor or the satisfaction of telling someone they’re being rude. All answers can be found within. Give yourself a little self love, allow yourself to be emotional and then let go.
5. Isvarapranidhana (Devotion, Surrender)
Whether your belief system includes a higher power, a ball of energy or a universal pull—there is a balanced, fulfilled, enlightened self that is waiting to unite with unique, wonderful you. Isvarapranidhana requires you to surrender any fear and doubt to the powers of trust, faith and acceptance. If we can surrender attachment to the world around us, we can rise to a higher perspective and be united with the potential in each and every one of us. Your journey is unique to you. Now breathe and know you are exactly where you are supposed to be.
Also by Alyssa: The Linguistics of Staying Present and Finding Peace
Photo: HOI CHEUNG WONG via Flickr