I distinctly remember the moment I discovered that yoga was not just about movement. My teacher had brought out a whiteboard and was overviewing the 8 different limbs, and I found myself set back on my heels thinking, “8 limbs? 8 limbs?! And moving the body is only 1 of those?? How do we practice the other 7?”
And while I’m not here to get into all 8 of the limbs, I am here to talk about the first 2 (the Yamas & Niyamas) and how they can offer peace, freedom, and nourishment to your daily life -- on and off of the mat.
The Yamas: Restraints Affecting Others
The Yamas are a set of restraints that a person can utilize to improve their external relationships. The image above offers some brief definitions, but here are some ideas on how to actually embody those concepts.
Ahimsa (non-violence or, reframed, compassion)
- Refrain from violent / harmful thoughts and words.
Ex - If someone cuts you off in traffic, you could think “What a jerk” or you could instead think “I hope their rush isn’t indicative of an emergency”. Imagine how each might ripple into the rest of your day.
- Practice being both honest as well as compassionate
Ex - If someone invites you to dinner and you’d rather not go, you could make up an excuse (“Sorry, I’d love to go, but I have a work thing..”) or you could instead tell the truth (“I appreciate you asking me, but I’m actually really looking forward to a night in.”) Notice that the second option is in no way mean to the other person, but it also honors your truth.
- Notice the ways that you subtly steal from others. Note if there are any patterns, and focus on how you might flip from ‘stealing’ to ‘being generous’.
- Ex - Instead of stealing the spotlight by dominating the conversation, work on asking more questions of others during conversation.
- Practice restraint in any area of life where you typically indulge.
- Ex - If you have a beer with dinner every night, experiment with having one every other night to see what that is like.
- Experiment with letting go, both physically and figuratively.
- Ex - Declutter your house, donating / throwing out anything that doesn’t have a distinct purpose or get used frequently. If you haven’t used / worn it in the last year, you can probably live without it.
The Niyamas: Internal Observances
The Niyamas are the internal companion to the Yamas. They help us to better the relationship we have with ourselves so that we might more fully embody our vest / highest selves.
- Keep yourself (inside and out) and your space clean.
- Ex - Shower. Clean the house. Eat clean. Drink lots of water. Take deep inhales and full exhales. Work up a sweat.
- Find ways to embrace your current reality.
- Ex - Write out a gratitude list. This practice is most effective over time, so consider listing 3 things per day over the course of, say, a month, and notice how that impacts your mindset for the day.
- Create nourishing habits for yourself and also set goals for yourself.
- Ex - Making the bed every morning can be a simple form of self-discipline that helps your day to start more positively.
- Ex - Setting a goal to complete a challenging hike not only gives you the chance to try your hand at the goal, but it also pushes you to train / prepare in the time leading up to it. What a great opportunity to push yourself beyond your comfort zone.
Svadhyaya (self study)
Observe yourself. Only by truly knowing yourself can you most effectively be yourself.
- Ex - Spend time in meditation to intentionally observe your own thought patterns.
Ex - Practice pausing whenever you feel a strong emotion. Think “What feels easiest to do here?” and also “What feels most aligned with who I want to be?” and then consciously choose to enact the second option.
Isvara Pranidhana (surrender to the divine)
- Whether you believe in a god, love, fate, enlightenment, or any other large entity, make time and space for that entity to influence your life.
- Ex - If you feel frustrated while interacting with a person, pause and remind yourself that this power is also at play in their life.
- Ex - Set aside time to bask in this entity. That might mean church or meditation or conversations with friends.
Overall, yoga is not simply a practice of the physical body on the mat. It is, in its fullest capacity, a methodology for how to live. Practice some of the above ideas, and you might just find a little more peace and freedom throughout your life.
Brooke is a contributing author for Tada Rugs. Tada Rugs is a 5x7 yoga mat disguised as an artistic area rug that you never have to put away. Tada is short for tadasana, or mountain pose, and our own backyard in the San Juan Mountains of Durango, Colorado is where we find our inspiration. Check out our new designs, enter for a chance to win a new Tada Rug, and be sure to follow us for deals and insider specials! Like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, or contact us through our website! Tie a room together and bring your practice home.
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