Yoga outside of the studio
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:
- Universal morality
– Be non-harming
– Be honest
– Don’t steal
– Have sensual moderation
– Don’t be possessive
- Personal morality
- Physical practices (yoga poses)
- Breathing practices (encourages energy throughout your body)
- Withdrawal of the senses (overcoming distractions such as fear)
- Concentration (using your new ‘clear-headedness’ to focus)
- Meditation (reaching a state of calm)
- 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’.
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.
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).