Discovering yoga

Yoga outside of the studio

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I’m one of those people that tries a million things out of curiosity and soon moves on to the next thing (a trait I’m trying to work on). So I’ve tried yoga a few times in my life, but only recently has it stuck. This is partly due to a great local studio, Holy Cow yoga, which has a wonderful atmosphere and passionate instructors, and partly due to discovering the side of yoga that isn’t physical practices – the eight limbed path.

I feel a bit silly not even knowing this path existed. I thought it was all about strengthening your body and soul through postures and meditation, but there’s a whole set of guidelines for your life that I completely agree with.

The eight limbed path

During my voluntary placement in Nepal I allowed myself one book to take with me – ‘The little book of yoga’ by Nora Isaacs. When the time was right I started picking up the book every night.

The introduction to yoga and the different ages of yoga was interesting, but what really struck a chord was the eight limbed path. This is a set of ‘steps’ which make up the path to enlightenment that ancient yogis believe in. If I’ve lost you at this point, I totally get it – it was the phrase ‘path to enlightenment’ wasn’t it?

I’ve been raised as a down to earth, straight talking northern girl so phrases like this don’t really sit comfortably with me either. But I was also raised to be open minded and accepting of other people’s beliefs. So I kept reading.

Here’s what I learnt – a simple set of moral and ethical guidelines that lead you to a peaceful life. These are:

  1. Universal morality
    – Be non-harming
    – Be honest
    – Don’t steal
    – Have sensual moderation
    – Don’t be possessive
  2. Personal morality
    – Purity
    – Contentment
    – Self-discipline
    – Self-study
    – Surrender
  3. Physical practices (yoga poses)
  4. Breathing practices (encourages energy throughout your body)
  5. Withdrawal of the senses (overcoming distractions such as fear)
  6. Concentration (using your new ‘clear-headedness’ to focus)
  7. Meditation (reaching a state of calm)
  8. Enlightenment (that word we’re all uncomfortable with but goes by many other
    familiar names such as ecstasy, inner peace, happiness and freedom)

Failing, failing and trying again

I was reading this book a month after quitting my job and volunteering in Nepal, with my parents house to go back to and no clue what would happen next – so I was probably seeking some kind of guidance to get me through the day.

Whatever the reason was, I’m so happy I started reading. At first I typically got over excited and decided I needed to be able to do a head stand (do not try this without an instructor’s guidance). Then I vowed to do an hours physical practice every day at 7pm. Of course I was being a bit ambitious and soon started feeling bad for not ‘sticking to the plan’.

Ahimsa (non-harming/compassion)

But here’s the great thing about yoga philosophy, it’s very first guideline is ‘ahimsa’, or ‘non-harming/compassion’. This includes self-abuse, which includes holding yourself to unrealistic ideals. I was already learning to adopt a kind, forgiving and gentle approach to life.

So I stopped beating myself up about not reaching the unachievable goal I weirdly set for myself (why do we do this?) and started small. I did two rounds of sun salutes every morning whilst waiting for our team to arrive. It took 10 minutes. These 10 minutes are the most valuable practice I’ve given myself – it may sound small but it clears my head and puts me in a great mood for the day.

Anyone in my life hears me mention yoga a fair bit, because I can’t recommend it enough. It keeps your joints moving, it clears your head, and you get a confidence boost because you feel so good. You could start with a sun salute every morning and see how you get on, move at your own pace and get advice from a professional if you can.

Discover more

You can buy The little book of yoga for around £7 online.

Ask around for your local yoga class or search on www.localyogaclasses.co.uk, just be mindful that not every studio is listed here.

If you’re in Chesterfield/Sheffield area visit Holy Cow Yoga which is where I go. It’s owned by Taran who I can only describe as a burning ball of positive energy (and also an excellent tutor).

Note: Please note that I’m not a medical professional and this post isn’t offered as medical advice or treatment, I’m speaking purely from my own experience. I also advise that you practice with a skilled instructor to really know your body’s needs and limitations.

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