Putanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga
It’s fair to say that for each and every one of us, life doesn’t always go according to plan. In fact, depending on whether you’re sitting in the glass half full or glass half empty camp, it very often doesn’t go to plan but sometimes, the off plan can be more challenging than others.
Well, you could say it’s been that kind of a year already here but it’s not to say that it’s all been bad. For as my body and emotions took a roller coaster ride as I encountered the unplanned for, it took me deeper into my yoga practice and for that I am grateful.
When the worse times kick in, that’s when you have the opportunity to reach into the yoga tool box and take out whatever it is your body, emotions and mind need.
It made me realise more than ever before that yoga isn’t all about the asana, the alignment, the physical practice, the pretty shapes we make on our mats, that’s just one small and beautiful part of yoga. For those of us with an innate desire to move or need to in order to connect with our breath and to get rid of that pent up stress hormone cortisol, this moving element of the practice can be something we cling to, but as in all aspects of our practice, something we should practice to let go of too.
So that when that moment occurs when you too may encounter a period where through lifestyle, illness or injury your body’s need is to convalesce, you are able to use this time to your advantage. To truly explore what other fantastic gifts yoga has to offer, to relinquish control on how you think life’s great plan should be played out for you and let go of the feeling that somehow you have been dealt the raw deal. We can use this time to embrace what has been given to us as the lesson that for whatever reason was intended rather than seeing it as a punishment.
Whether it’s singing or chanting, breathing or just being, meditating or being mindful, mudras or mantras or diving into the philosophy of the yamas and niyamas, (all of which make up Putanjalis eight fold path to yoga), we can feel empowered to heal ourselves and who knows, we might just find out more about our life’s purpose on the way.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t happy about my situation. It was a battle to see anything good about what had just happened but then a book that I ordered came through the post and landed like a thunderbolt on the doormat, just at the point I was contemplating taking to my mat for a ‘gentle’ practice despite my doctor’s advice. “A Path With Heart” it’s called and just the title made me realise that there was nothing compassionate or kind about moving my body when at this particular time it needed to heal. There was nothing kind about how I was judging myself for being ‘lazy’ when in fact the term is ‘to convalesce’.
This challenging time in my life has been just that, but we can use these times to realise that this suffering is something that many others have been through, that life is rich with great times but also painful ones, that ultimately, we have shared experiences, that each and every one of us is connected to the other and that we have the capacity in the face of suffering to learn, move on and grow. As Jack Kornfield rightly said: “Our hearts can grow strong at the broken places.”
Special thanks to Juliette for recommending the book A Path With Heart by Jack Kornfield and to all of you for your kind words of support.
If you’re going through a challenging time in your life right now, you might like the following practice adapted from Jack Kornfield’s book:
Sitting in a comfortable seated position. Begin by noticing how you are feeling as you sit here, is the breath short and shallow or stuck in places, is your mind busy or quiet? Simply make an observation without judgement. Now start to notice where the body connects with the ground and as you inhale through your nose, imagine the breath travelling up from the ground to your lungs. As you exhale, the breath leaves the lungs through the points where the body meets the ground. Continue this for several breaths and with each inhale, observe the increasing expansion of the lungs, with each exhale a sense of inner calm and connection with yourself and the safe, secure place of being supported by mother earth beneath you.
Now imagine yourself standing in the most beautiful garden, surrounded by flowers, the warming rays of the sun beaming down on you, a stream of water by your side and ahead a beautiful, white temple with a path leading up to it. Follow the path towards the temple, enjoying the smell of flowers along the way, the trees blowing in the wind, the water of the stream gently flowing. As you get to the temple, the door is open and you step inside and take a seat. Sense yourself sitting there, peaceful, calm, happy, quietly meditating. As you sit there, you allow the wounds or the pain you feel to gradually surface. You breathe with a gentle soft awareness that allows space for whatever will be to arise.
As you sit here, a hand rests on your shoulder and you are met by a wise person from the temple. They have come to help you to heal. They are kind and open hearted and you sense their warmth as they move their hand to the place where your body feels wounded or pain. As they lay their hands on your pain, they invite you to place your hands on top of theirs and teach you what it is to feel their healing embrace.
With this healing hand, for the first time, you are able to open to the pain rather than run from it. You are able to let it rise to the surface. The wise person starts to remove their hands as you continue to touch this place with tenderness and kindness, bringing your attention to what is there. Is this sorrow hot or cold, does it feel sharp or is it a dull ache? Name the sensations as they come up. Allow yourself this time to be with them, knowing at any time, that your breath and the ground beneath you is there to support you. Peaceful and calm, you are able to open up to these sensations.
Be still here in this healing temple for as long as you can, feel compassion, kindness and healing wash over every cell in your body as you sit here. When it is time to leave, you offer your gratitude and bow to the alter in the temple. As you walk back out into the garden surrounding the temple, you feel lighter, happier and closer to being healed. You leave knowing that this temple is here inside you, a place where you can return whenever you need to.
Namaste my friends. Cx