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The Yamas of Yoga

In the Yoga Sutra by the sage Patanjali, there is a path laid forth which leads the seeker to union with the divine. This union is to Patanjali the true goal of yoga. This path is called the 8-limbed path and it begins with the limb called the Yamas. These are the basic ethical tenets of the philosophy of yoga. The sage saw the Yamas as a vow made by the yogi toward the world and its inhabitants and towards oneself.

The first Yama is the practice of Ahimsa which is acting, thinking, and being in a state of non-violence toward the world and oneself. Our natural state is to react to the world and ourselves with violence in physical ways but also in our mental ways through irritation, judgment, and anger. In the practice of non-violence, we seek to control and separate from these urges. It requires discipline and perseverance to not only keep yourself from violence but to then become active and pursue compassion and love. This practice must extend not only to those around us, but also to ourselves which is where the journey begins.

By practicing compassion toward ourselves, we acknowledge our faults but then give ourselves grace and acceptance. We are then able to offer compassion and even forgiveness to those who have offended us in small and large ways.

The second Yama is Satya which is the practice of truthfulness. This means being truthful with and to yourself, embracing what is true to you and living in integrity rather than trying to please others by pretending to be something that you are not. It means being truthful about your weaknesses and struggles. It is about acting with honesty toward yourself and toward others.

The third Yama is Brahmacharya which is restrain of our physical impulses or base instincts. By controlling these urges, which include our sex drive, we enable ourselves to become more focused mentally. It is the practice of moderation that allows us to break away from addictive behaviors and the physical impulses which if indulged in too often, allow them to rule over us.

The fourth Yama is Asteya or to not covet. In order to live a peaceful life, we must train our minds and hearts to be content with what we have rather than always seeking to satisfy our unending need for more. By seeking more and more, we actually create an unhappiness within ourselves which no amount of acquisition will satisfy. It is only by letting go of our desire for what others have that will we be able to truly be happy and at peace.

The fifth Yama is Aparigraha which is interpreted by some as not stealing or as not grasping. It is being able to let go of what we tend to cling to. This can be possessions or the way our lives are. When we lose what we possess, or our lives change, we often resist and this creates unhappiness. We must learn to let go in order to be peaceful and accept what we do have or what we have been given, even if that means accepting what has been taken away as well. By letting go, we are better able to see what is truly important, which is our true self.

The practice of the Yamas of yoga opens a doorway to living a more balanced and healthy life. It allows us to see what is holding us captive, whether that is our urges and desires or what we have been clinging to which may be in the form of lies, possessions, relationships or the status quo. It also opens our hearts to give freely to others without expecting anything in return because we know that we already have what we need.

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3 Laughably Easy Ways To Go Green

Earth Day, the day when the environmentally astute nag us about the future of the planet, is nigh upon us. While most of us don’t mind being kind to the earth in theory, it requires a great deal of effort and we are lazy. Buying local produce is fine when we make it to the farmer’s market. Sustainable food, yes, sure – but we’re not so enthusiastic if we have to give up our cars. Before packing your bags for a tree-planting stay on a kibbutz, here are some lower-energy ideas to get in on the healthier earth movement.

Go Native

I’m referring to plant choices (otherwise, this would be an offensive subheading). To hear some tell it, potted plants are miracle workers, credited with boosting our immunity, increasing productivity, and reducing overall stress. Even if you think the New Age healing power of plants stuff is a bunch of claptrap, most people agree that a nice garden adds something to curb appeal.

Adapting your horticulture to the local ecosystem is politically astute because native plants are suited to local weather conditions (relative heat or cold, humidity, and rainfall), and requires little ecological (and economical) maintenance. In fact, growing native plants might reduce your overall carbon footprint by sucking up some of the excess sludge you’ve left behind in other areas of your life.

Get a Faucet Aerator

I know what you’re thinking – what in Sam Hill is a faucet aerator? A faucet aerator injects air bubbles into a water stream to reduce the amount of water coming out of a faucet. This is useful when: washing hands, brushing teeth, heating water. Not so useful when: filling a bucket or a pot, because you need X amount of water to fill a container, regardless of how long it takes to flow out of a faucet. Still, a faucet aerator is a small thing, and it doesn’t matter so much how strong the flow of a faucet is.
Please note that I’m not advocating a low-flow showerhead, which is a big thing. You should only get a low-flow showerhead if you are certain it won’t bother you. If a low-flow showerhead won’t bother you, you are amazing.

Use the AC and Heater Sparingly

Easier said than done! In California, we rarely need the heat (an extra sweater and blankets at night for a few months per year), but the summer without the AC seems impossible if you live more than ten miles away from the coast. Still, allowing your body five to ten minutes to adjust to the house temperature before turning on climate control helps your body learn to adjust to its environment naturally. Our bodies are adaptable to temperature changes (within reason) if we allow them time. Provided you are not in immediate danger of succumbing to weather-related illness, give yourself a few minutes and then when you do turn on your AC or heater, keep the thermostat set a few degrees higher or lower than usual. Small changes make significant differences on both your carbon footprint and the bill you receive from the energy company.

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5 Ways to Celebrate Your Yoga Body

Body acceptance and self-love is such an important concept, but difficult to comprehend for many of us. We see images in the media of how yogis and celebrities who practice yoga physically look and it has diluted the way we see the ideal “yoga body.”  I’m here to tell you no matter how much you weigh and how old you are, you have a yoga body that is capable of doing incredible things.

Many people are under the impression that you need to be strong, fit and thin to practice yoga. That can’t be further from the truth. Yoga is a spiritual and meditative practice that allows you to be exactly as you are. Throughout the span of your life, your body will change and evolve. You won’t look or feel the same when you’re 21 as you will when your 71. That’s the beauty of yoga. All are welcome and no one is excluded.

Here are 5 ways to celebrate the body you have, wherever you are in your fitness journey.
 

  1. Look at what you’ve accomplished so far. Go back to when you walked into your first yoga class or did your first workout at home. Think about where your flexibility and stamina was during that time. Now, fast forward to today. I can bet you are in a completely different place and can do things you never thought were possible! Poses that seemed difficult in the past now come to you effortlessly. If you’ve never practiced yoga before, take a look at other areas in your life. Perhaps you’re a mother and have gone through childbirth. Your body was healthy and strong enough to carry another human for nine months and you pushed through until the very end. That is an amazing and beautiful accomplishment and should be celebrated!
  2. Remember your why. It doesn’t matter if you have been practicing yoga for 25 years or 5 days, why did you decide to begin your yoga journey? Remembering your “why” from time to time helps remind you why yoga is so important to you and the reason you keep working on your practice.
  3. Stand in front of a mirror and focus on the good. Every morning, to get started on the right foot one of the first things you should do is point out what you like about yourself. It doesn’t have to be physical, for instance, you might like the fact that you can get into a meditative state practically instantaneously. If you love your strong shoulders from all of those downward dogs, say it out loud to yourself. This is a type of positive reinforcement that really can set the tone for the day.
  4. Find someone who supports and motivates you to be the best version of yourself. Maybe your yoga partner is always saying how flexible and graceful you are in class. Your mom might be someone who offers words of encouragement regularly or a significant other. Identify this person or persons and whenever they say something supportive or motivating, write it down on a piece of paper or in a notebook. You can either keep a running list or make a jar full of compliments and messages that lift you up. Whenever you’re feeling down, take a look at your list or take a message out of your jar and read it. Instant mood lifter!
  5. Fill your body with health. You are what you eat is a common cliché but oh so true. Reflect on what you’re putting into your body every day. Does most of your diet consist of whole, minimally processed food? If not, it might be time to rethink your approach to nutrition. Eating mostly whole foods does wonders for your body and mind and can even help you in your pursuit of yogi excellence.

This is it for now. Thanks for reading and have a nice day!

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