The 8 limbs of yoga include the Yamas and the last of those yamas is Aparigraha, meaning non-greed, non-covetousness, and non-attachment.
We can be greedy about all sorts of things; yoga postures, knowledge, money - these are all outcomes rather than processes or actions. Aparigraha teaches us to not be attached to outcomes, instead it is suggested we should only concern ourselves with what we’re doing right now.
When practicing Aparigraha we enjoy the act of a yoga practice, of tasks at work, holiday planning, cooking for friends - without trying to achieve an outcome. Considering that life is made up of moments shouldn't we enjoy each moment for what it is? This teaching is linked with yoga as a practice of being present.
Often when we are concerned with outcomes we are concerning ourselves with a desire to be praised by other people – when we let go of thinking that our happiness is determined by what other people think, and we just act for the love of it – we allow ourselves to live fulfilled and abundant lives.
Aparigraha on the Mat
In Ashtanga Yoga we are encouraged to keep our eyes and minds in our own space, indeed Ashtanga Yoga has specific looking places for specific postures which prevent our eyes from wandering!
If our yoga practice is not about connecting to ourselves and being present, but about acquiring new asana, or being 'better' than the person we saw on Instagram…we need to work on Aparigraha ‘non-greed’ and ‘non-attachment’
When I started to practice Ashtanga yoga one of the first things my teacher said to me was 'no books, no videos, no internet yoga' (social media was much less a thing then). I followed that advice and was lucky to not fall into a trap of comparison, I feel that maybe my absolute pure love of the practice is partly because I never experienced the frustration or pride borne from comparison - thanks to this advice.
Practice for the love of practicing
It feels good when an asana gets easier and we should allow ourselves to enjoy that, but it isn't the be all and end all.
The sheer joy of the practice is the greatest reward, realising how freeing it is not to have a specific goal, but to simply move our bodies in a way that feels good. If we practise for the love of practising, without forcing or pushing ourselves beyond our edge, the body will unfold naturally and the more challenging asanas will be accessible with consistent effort.
Aparigraha and being enough
Aparigraha teaches us that we are enough. Believing that new objects or achieving fancy looking asana will bring us happiness is often based on a feeling of lack, a sense of ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I’m not whole without that new thing’, when really we always were and always will be good enough ,no matter what.
The next time you feel you need to buy or achieve something, take a moment to think why you need it, will it bring lasting happiness? Will it help you find peace? Will it help you live in a more self-reliant and simpler way?
Aparigraha and accepting impermanence
Sometimes we are attached to how things are, or what we have, and a great deal of distress can be experienced when they change.
Aparigraha helps us to loive with greater ease by inviting us to be aware that everything is temporary and so we should not be too attached to things as they are. That doesn't mean we shouldn't absolutely enjoy things as they are. Quite the opposite.
- Knowing that our good health is not permanent helps us to appreciate it more while we have it and to take good care of it.
- Knowing that our loved ones won't always be physically present can help us to be more present with them now.
- Knowing that your beautiful ornament might break can help you to take special care and notice of it.
Aparigraha invites us to enjoy what it is, but to not be so attached that the impermanence causes us unbearable distress. To me it also reminds me that physicality isn't permanent but that impression can be if we choose it to be. It teaches me to be fully present with that which I love because I will always have the impression of it.
When Popsie (dad) was nearing the end of his physical life I took extra care to be fully present with him and he did with us too. His passing was of course sad, but I was able to accept and be aware of his impermanence in this life which enabled me to put effort into shaping the lasting impressions which can be permanent within me.
Aparigraha offers us so much freedom – the freedom to work and do what we love without worrying about the outcome, the freedom to rely less on external and material possessions to bring us happiness, and the freedom to experience everything life has to offer, whatever that may be.
The world is a beautiful place, we are gifted with senses and a body through which we get to experience this stunningly beautiful planet
A beautiful gentleman who is currently without a home told me this week that every single day he finds a reason to be happy. On the coldest, wettest day of March he saw a double rainbow and it filled his heart with joy. He told me he believes in unity and that if we honour our rhythms we can settle our hearts and ground ourselves This gentleman has so much wisdom and I love spending time drumming and chatting with him.
Many of our wonderful Mandala yoga community tell me about the things that they noticed that brought them joy in the day and this telling helps to spread joy.
If you’re new to gratitude how about you give it a go? Every day look for things that bring you joy, spend at least 10seconds really engaging with that sense. Note down the moments in your mind or physically and review them at the end of each day.
What is perfect anyway?
If you are delaying joining a yoga class because you’re not flexible, strong or because you’re tired or mentally frayed….you should join now!
Yoga isn’t about perfection.
It’s also not a linear growth, life happens, sometimes even the teacher topples and forgets what they were saying mid-cue
There’s absolutely ZERO judgement in a yoga class.
The teacher is there to meet you where you are right now, not how you were yesterday or last week.
Yoga teachers don’t make comparisons, they encourage and SUPPORT each individual student as you are.
So, see if you can rest your hesitations and gift yourself the act of self love that is yoga - today
If you’re not sure about which class to choose take a look at the class descriptions, or pop me a message
Always, always speak kindly to yourself, because you’re always listening.
For many people this is the single most important change we can make to start to live with more ease and less pain. In yoga we start with ahimsha (non-harming) and it starts with self.
Many of us aren’t even aware of the unkind things we say to ourselves and the hurt those words cause us and how that ripples out to our relationships. If that sounds like you here is a method I often teach…
If it would upset you then you are hurting yourself with those words.
Don’t beat yourself up though (don’t add more suffering!) think about what you would say to your loved one in response, and say those words to yourself.
The more often we do this the more natural it becomes.
“I’m always forgetting things, I’m so stupid and ditzy”
“On Wednesdays I’m super busy and so I rush; my mind is occupied with my to do list and I often forget the things I need for the day. That’s ok, my brain can only hold so many things at once. I’ll go a little slower on Wednesday mornings to stay calm and I’ll ask my housemate to help me to create a list and I’ll pin it to the fridge and check it before I leave.”
I’m rubbish at DIY, everything ends up wonky or falls off, my dad was great at it and I should be too, but I’m crap”
“DIY was my dad’s hobby, his way of winding-down and gaining a sense of achievement. I prefer to be on my yoga mat, or outdoors in nature. Because of this I rush through DIY instructions, I haven’t spent money on the right tools and so of course I don’t get the same results as someone who enjoys it and spends time cultivating that skill and that’s ok. When I need a cupboard door hanging I’ll ask dad or hire a professional with the tools snd hours of practice to do it well.”
So, 3 steps
1: Awareness: catch yourself speaking unkindly
2: Gratitude: Thank and congratulate yourself on the awareness, this guards against judging yourself for the initial unkindness
3: Love: Reframe as you would for a being you love unconditionally
Bonus Solutions: If you can also find a solution that would be even more wonderful
I hope you speak with love to yourself all day
‘Yogas Chitta Vrittis Nirodha’ - simply translated as 'yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind'
In yoga we are working towards quietening the chatter of the mind; this can be challenging when we first start to practice. If we are not able to cease the chatter just yet we can work on recognising that the mind is constantly chatting and that we are not our mind. We can work towards not identifying with or getting carried away with the chatter of the mind. To help us to accomplish this we can turn to the SIFT model of the mind.
The SIFT model was developed by Dr Dan Siegel. It's a simple way of understanding and bringing awareness to the workings of the mind so that we can find peace of mind.
SIFT explains that the mind is a neutral space and that it is what we fill it with that matters and that we fill it with Sensations, Information, Feelings and Thoughts. We are also taught this through the yoga sutras.
If we can develop a trait of bringing awareness to our state of mind and then examining the source of that state we can work towards sitting with or processing that, to work towards peace.
The SIFT Process
What are we sensing with our bodies?
What is the information coming in?
What are we feeling, emotionally?
What are we thinking?
Bringing awareness to these elements helps us understand ourselves and develop insight, so that we can live more skilfully, deciding what we need to do from a place of clarity.
When asked when do we know that we are doing a yoga posture correctly Patthabi Jois responded "When the mind is quiet, the asana is correct."
The yoga sutras tell us that 'sthira sukham asanam' translated as 'yoga asana should be steady and comfortable', or more literally that 'asana should be grounded and with good space'. This sums up the aim of yoga, we are seeking a state of BODY and MIND that is steady and comfortable, with a sense of 'good space'.
When we are steady in body and breath, the mind becomes steady, of course a non-steady mind can send the body off balance - and our challenge is then to bring our mind back to where we are or could be physically rooted and let go of the wandering of the mind. This steadiness is what we mean by Sthiri, and from here we can find Sukha - the comfort or good space.
When body and mind are steady and comfortable, even when the body is challenged, we are in a state of asana. When the mind gets distracted by senses or the body starts to struggle because of sensations of discomfort, we should back off until we find the steadiness.
In the asana we should be enquiring 'do we feel rooted and from there where can I find the good space?'.
This is really rather different from simply stretching, or striving towards more length, a bigger stretch. Space without grounding isn't yoga, and grounding without space isn't yoga either. Space from a point of stable grounding is where we find peace in asana and life. I think we can all relate to how disconcerting it is to feel flighty, ungrounded and also how we cause ourselves problems by acting with fixed stubbornness.
Approaching asana with this focus on steadiness and ease, or good space, is aligned with a law of nature, known as the Principle of Minimal Action.
In asana if we add too much movement we lose our sense of confident stable grounding, our body and mind becomes unfocused, the mind becomes restless and we can become physically exhausted! It's a little like when we try hard to stay on the surface of the water, we sink but when we relax and give up we float.
When practicing each asana by easing into it without wasting energy through unnecessary movements we are aligned with our own nature and the flow of nature that we are part of.
When I enter asana I do so with the minimal movement possible, with no faffing. By keeping the movements throughout the practice minimal and focused the practice really is a flowing meditation perfectly balanced between grounding and space. This is why I tend to workshop asana one by one rather than lots of asana in one class, so that we can maintain the moving meditation.
When we practice with minimal movement the body is in a restful and regenerative mode, even during the Ashtanga yoga practice which to the observer seems high energy, the practice is restful and regenerative when we are moving with a balance of grounding and space, without unnecessary movements.
Enquiry into the Asana
In the state of the asana we want to remain steady and comfortable, we might enquire as follows:-
Are we feeling grounded? If we are not we will want to work on that before we start to reach out from that state.
Is the breath steady? If not we will want to bring the asana back until it is..
Are we emotionally balanced? Is the mind steady?
Are we finding good space, or are we over-reaching compromising strength and grounding?
Is the mind accepting of where we are, or is it frustrated?
Are we aware of the whole body, or striving with one part? Is the effort even?
Are we adding unnecessary movements and why? Are we striving, that's another thought process!
Winter Solstice greetings to our beautiful community
The leaves have fallen and the period of quiet, gentle growth begins.
This is unseen growth deep down, the un-showy growth at the roots, the strength of which enable the flexibility to bend with the changing winds.
The softer light perhaps invites us to look within.
To acknowledge the growth going on deep within.
The gentleness of the light perhaps inviting us to be especially gentle with ourselves and others.
The light is on its slow return, no need to rush it; growth requires a great deal of energy, enjoy being right here right now.
Wishing you balancing, grounding and a gentleness as we work to stay centred and gentle in these uncertain times
When we truly practice yoga we change.
The asana are a route into the psychology of the practice. We practice this psychology through our bodies because we experience life through our bodies and what we embody we are more likely to understand. So we practice ahimsha (non-harming) on our mats, reflect on how else we can practice non harming of our bodies and then our minds and the bodies and minds of others.
We practice asteya (non-stealing) on the mat, not stealing from or compromising one part of the body or quality of the breath to express an asana. We might then think about parts of our life out of balance, where might we be stealing from? What might we be stealing in our relationships?
We start to see through the illusion of separation and understand that we only ever see part of a story and that not everything is about us and that we almost always have a choice.
All of this helps us to grow and change. This is why we come to the mat even (especially) when life is hardest, because we know that the mat is a place of reflection, strength, flexibility and growth.
|Listening Truthfully to Understand |
The importance of satya & the illusion of separation are two key yoga teachings that are very relevant right now.
In recent years it seems increasingly there’s a very strong illusion of separation created by lack of quietly and truthfully paying attention. Instead of paying attention and seeking truth we are witnessing a lot of people shouting and very few people listening.
We are witnessing people entrenched in their views, convinced they are right and others are wrong, desperate to prove to others their own rightness, convinced that the 'other' wants to cause harm to community, fellow humans and the planet.
This is all experienced as noisy conflict and division - yet we know that yoga teaches us that separation is an illusion.
So how can we see through this illusion and find our interconnectedness?
How can we heal and work together?
What does our yoga teach us?
Yoga teaches us that we are not our ego, teaches us discernment so that we are able to step outside the 'I-ness" the ego. Once we are aware of this we can strengthen our resolve to listen to learn and not to protect the ego by being 'right'.
Next we can look at 'Satya' - truthfulness, are we being honest with our beliefs about others?
Satya is a yama and therefore often presented as restraint: about slowing down, filtering, carefully considering, not jumping to our own stories.
How about we ask if WE TRUTHFULLY KNOW that our perceptions of those we disagree with are really true?
How about we ask if WE TRUTHFULLY KNOW whether there really are so many people who actively want to cause harm to others?
How about we slow down, have open eyes, ears, hearts and minds
Pay attention to what we truthfully see and hear
Pay attention to our bias, assumptions and our motives
Pay attention to seeking to learn and understand
To especially seek to understand those who may hold views and have experiences different from our own
When we combine this with the knowledge that we are all interdependent, inseparable from the nature we are part of, we can see that perhaps people who hold views different from our own also want happy, healthy, fair communities and a planet that is healthy and can sustain all life.
If we truthfully listen from a place of love, a place of knowing that separation is an illusion and that human motivations are based on fear or love we can perhaps start to realise that perhaps those with different views have different information? Or different experiences? Or different understandings?
If we listen from a place of understanding that we all want a happier, healthier world and we only differ in how we think we can best achieve that, then we can start to work together to heal, to build a more compassionate future.
How do we do this? Yoga teaches us to pay attention to it all, to pause, be quiet, to watch our own expectations, assumptions, bias and to come from a place of love
Be open to what we don’t expect.
In Ashtanga Yoga classes this week we’ve been introducing Ahimsha (non-harming/non-violence) and why we start with ahimsha when studying the yamas of the yoga sutras.
Ahimsha is the first of the Yamas, the yamas are the first limb of the 8 limbs of Ashtanga Yoga. The yamas are a code of ethics, they aren't doctrine, they are guiding principles that each practitioner interprets for themselves to help them to live a life of yoga, a life in which we are seeking to live with more flexibility and ease and less effort. The yamas are based on the principle of karma, which is that our actions ripple out and have an effect on our own experience of life.
Starting with really establishing a practice of ahimsha enables us to be honestly fully present with what we are doing with incoming sensory data without falling into harmful thoughts - when we catch ourselves experiencing / thinking these thoughts we can reframe them as something focused on love, kindness and growth.
We practice this by noticing intention - what is our intention when dwelling on attempts that didn’t go as planned? Is it to cause ourselves harm? If we want to practice ahimsha it can’t be to do harm, so how about to learn what we can do differently? If it’s to learn for the future then the previous attempt can be reframed as a positive learning experience
So, next time you catch yourself ruminating remind yourself of ahimsha and ask yourself how you can reframe your thoughts in a non-harmful way.
Emma, Studio Director & Ashtanga Yoga Teacher