First weekend of YOGA TEACHER TRAINING!! Wooo! I have been wanting to do my YTT for about 8 years now. I first found yoga in Midland, Michigan in 2006 after a back injury. I enjoyed it then, but didn’t really fall in-love with yoga until a few years later when I was living in Washington DC. While I have never fallen out of love with yoga, it has fallen in and out of my daily routine over the past 13 years. Every time I leave for a while and come back to my practice I find it absolutely mind blowing that I could have ever stayed away for any length of time.
If you have not done yoga before and if “not being flexible” is what has kept you from trying it, I have great news! Yoga has NOTHING to do with your flexibility. Yoga, first and foremost is a philosophy of living. The “asanas” or postures (The physical discipline taught in your typical yoga class) is just ONE of the eight limbs of yoga. So what are the other 7 limbs? I’m so glad you asked…
Limb One: “Yamas” which translates to “the laws of life”, there are five of these.
- Ahimsa – Non-violence
- Satya – Truthfulness
- Asteya – Non-stealing
- Brahmacharya – Moderation
- Aparigraha – Non-attachment
Limb Two: “Niyamas” which translates to “the way, the rules for living”
- Saucha – Purity or cleanliness
- Santosha – Contentment
- Tapas – Heat or discipline
- Svadhyaya – Self-study or self-inquiry
- Isvara Pranidhana – Devotion or surrender to a higher power or “God”.
Limb Three: “Asana” (What your typical yoga class teaches) Postures for creating firmness of the body, steadiness of intelligence and benevolence of spirit. The postures create strenth, flexibility, vitality, and self-awareness, cleansing the body and mind and guiding us to a sense of stillness and unity within and without. GET THIS – the asanas were only created to prep the body to be able to stay in a seated position longer to extend meditation time. I thought that was interesting…
Limb Four: “Pranayama” Refers to an array of invigorating and relaxing breathing exercises that help us calm the mind and steady the thoughts, awakening inner peace and cleansing the system.
Limb Five: “Pratyahara” Withdrawal of the senses, mind and consciousness from the outside world. Moving beyond the ups and downs of external reality into a greater sense of stillness, ease, and spaciousness by turning awareness inward.
Limb Six: “Dharana” Concentration of the mind. The ability to direct the mind toward an object and keep it there.
Limb Seven: “Dhyana” Meditation. The mind has a one-pointed focus. Withdrawing consciousness into the soul. Quiet mind and open heart.
Limb Eight: “Samadhi” Ecstasy, self-realization. Loss of individual self and merger with the universal spirit. A trance-like state where the turnings of thought are neutralized.
There is A LOT more definition I could offer for each of these, just choosing to keep it short for you. If you’re curious to learn more though, here are some resources: Best books about yoga
What I find remarkable in my own life is that years before I even knew of these limbs I was intrinsically urged to start practicing some of these rules for living. For instance; After a year or so of becoming very into yoga and developing a daily practice, I started having urges for odd things and sudden afflictions to my normal habits.
There was about a month of time in 2011 that I found it hard to eat anything, I just was not hungry. I didn’t know why then, and honestly thought something was wrong with me. I can reflect now and know that it was my body trying to clean and purify itself. (Saucha/Brahmacharya) When I did eat, I suddenly was called to start praying over my food, blessing it and expressing gratitude for it showing up on my plate. I even remember my gratitude bringing me to tears while dining at an Indian restaurant in Bethesda, MD.
I started questioning myself very aggressively. Staring at myself in the mirror regularly asking, “who am I?”, “why am I here?”, “How can I be most useful?”. (Svadhyaya). My intense workout routine and strict diet began to seem silly. I started listening to my body and soul and gave it what it needed rather than forcing it through pain and starvation to perform and look the way I wanted it to. What was even harder than loosening the tight reins on my fitness and diet was relinquishing the fear of being fat and learning to love myself for who and what I truly am. (Ahimsa).
I very clearly remember my first true surrender to the universal energy. (Isvara Pranidhana) It was around 4am, I was mildly stoned and rollerblading in my then driveway just stewing and very aggravated about my current circumstance. After a few hours of this deep introspection, questioning, expressed dissatisfaction, and pleading for direction. I threw my hands up in the air and I shouted to the universe, “What do you want from me!? What am I supposed to do!? I will listen, just show me!” I suddenly lost my footing and fell backwards. It honestly felt like someone pushed me down with force as to say, “quit your bitching, child!”. It hurt, my wrist was bleeding, and then with tears in my eyes I began laughing hysterically like a crazy person. I had this extreme sense of calm and comfort come over me and the words “do whatever you want” came streaming though my mind over and over again. “do whatever you want…do whatever you want…do whatever you want”… So I did. I quit my job that next week, enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s Holistic Health Coaching program and accepted a position as a live-in nanny for special needs children.
I have found it true, without a doubt, that the more I listen and act upon my intuition and make choices that serve my higher purpose, the smoother and more fulfilling life gets. The more I practice getting to know myself through my physical and spiritual practices the better I can tune into my most genuine self and understand how I exist within my environment.
All of that said, you can now imagine my excitement to take such an active step towards expanding my understanding of this so called, yoga. After this past weekend’s 20 hours of class room studies and many more weekends like that to come, I realize I will just have to trust myself to absorb what I need to know for now and let the rest of it flow through and around me until the time is right for it to present itself again and teach me what I need to learn.
Yoga is just one philosophy… find one that makes sense to you. But please, for the love of god, start living your best life by tuning into your most genuine and truest self. Treat yourself kindly and literally ASK for higher enlightenment, then listen and be aware of the direction that show up.
That is all for now. I love you.
Thanks for reading,