Continuing our Yamas and Niyamas Yoga Exploratory Journey
Hello all! Back in January we launched our year-long exploration of the ‘Yamas’ and ‘Niyamas’ of yoga—essentially, the ethical principles that can guide our yoga practice and the intersection of where yoga meets life, both on and off the mat. We’ve spent the first half of 2016 studying the yamas - yoga’s ethical restraints. It is now time to turn our attention to the niyamas - yoga’s ethical observances - as set forth by the ancient yoga teachings of Pantanjali in his Yoga Sutras. Pantanjali gives the niyamas to us as:
Saucha – purity
Santosha – contentment
Tapas – self-disciple
Svadhyaya – self-study
Ishvara Pranidhana – surrender
Please join me as we continue this learning journey together. First, this month's news!
June offered some special opportunities! I was honored to assist at Amy Weintraub’s LifeForce Yoga® sponsor exhibition space at the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research, held in Reston, VA. Her work with yoga for depression and anxiety is always an inspiration to people looking for ways to find greater balance in energy and mood.
My functional movement teacher Susi Hately presented at the symposium as well! It was a joy to see her. I’m thrilled to return to Calgary, Canada this August to begin her IAYT-accredited yoga therapy certification program and continue my studies on how functional movement can bring greater ease to life and enhance our body-mind connection.
June also brought:
This coming September I will again be offering more group classes of therapeutic yoga for shoulders and hips. Stay tuned!
As we fully embark into this summer season I hope you will find your own presence in the everyday moments of life.
Like you I’m sure, I wear many hats. I’m also a mom. I’m also a teacher. No doubt for you too, whatever your circumstance, the many hats we wear means that life is busy and often feels demanding. For me, it means that the 10-month school year sometimes feels like a long haul and usually by June, I feel ‘fully cooked’. I’m ready for a shift. I’m ready for a change. I feel a little worn out and tired. I usually feel like I need to take a step back and regroup.
So it was with great gratitude that I began the study of Saucha - Sanskrit for purity. The first yoga niyama - or yoga ethical observance.
There is nothing quite like just-in-time advice.
In her book, The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice, Deborah Adele explains that Saucha includes the invitation to purify our bodies, our thoughts, and our words. As we do so, we become “less cluttered and heavy; purification brings about a brightness and a clarity to our essence.” She notes that practicing purity is like engaging in a physical and mental cleansing process that “strengthens the body and insulates the mind, preparing us for the awakening of the energy within us.”
Adele suggests that the cleansing can take many forms and consist of very small shifts in just one or more areas. Physical exercise. Diet. Closet Clearing. Moderating our tongue. The intention is to “lighten the load we are carrying.” Ultimately we are seeking to put down the loads that “weigh down your body, mind and spirit.”
My teacher Susi Hately also often points this out: to move a boat forward one only has to “lift the anchor an inch” and that “baby steps” can also get you there.
So Adele’s words took my thoughts back to February and Heart Tree Yoga’s study of the yama restraint principle of Satya - truth. Our discussion then was about how both ‘our tissues and our issues’ make up our whole being. We learned that in yoga tradition, we have five layers called sheaths that comprise all of who we are. The first three layers include our physical self, emotional/energetic self, and mental self. Then, there are two more layers. One of them can be can be considered the wise observer where the intellect resides, which is able to simply step back and notice without judgment aspects of the first three layers. And finally, there is the layer of bliss, found in the silence, where we connect to the essence of consciousness itself.
And I came to feel that practicing Saucha can mean taking a good examination of each of these states and doing a little personal spring-cleaning. (Only here we’re doing it in July!) It might feel a little like the regrouping we might be seeking. We can look and ask ourselves:
At the same time, the idea observing Saucha is to strive to keep this sense of cleansing and purity ongoing. To align our states so that “our head and heart are unified, our thoughts, actions and speech are congruent, and we are in the present moment”, in the words of Adele.
So we make it our practice to keep our inner wise observer employed, noticing with compassion the workings of our tissues and our issues.
And yet. And yet.
Even when our wise observer notices, we also allow ourselves to be fully present with what exists in the moment. Adele tells us that Saucha is also the ability to be pure with our relationship with the moment, rather than trying to “make something pure” and not be real with what is. She tells us that being pure means that “we are not afraid of our thoughts and our feelings, and we do not have to hide anything from ourselves.”
Frustration. Sadness. Impatience. Fill in the blank. Observing the yoga principle of purity means being able to notice real human emotions and sit with them. And in the sitting with them, Adele tells us we will “increase our own staying power with our own suffering, intimacy, joy, boredom, pain and anxiety.”
So the sitting is also spring-cleaning.
At Heart Tree Yoga, the invitation this month is welcome your own compassionate examination and lighten your load. Open yourself to baby steps in observance of Saucha. And also sit and be with the present moment in your personal spring-cleaning.
With light and love,
Blog Archives including Heart Tree Yoga's Yamas and Niyamas Study from January-December 2016 and seasonal newsletters.