The Yamas and Niyamas are the 10 ethical guidelines behind the practice of yoga. They encompass non-violence, truth, non-stealing, non-excess, non-possessiveness, purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, and surrender.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about Asteya, the yama of non-stealing. In day-to-day life, we think of this as not stealing material possessions from stores or other people, however, there are many ways to steal and they don’t all encompass material goods.
You haven’t practiced yoga in a month. Your meditation practice has become sporadic at best. And that vegan diet you were going to maintain all summer? That lasted two days before you dove into that pint of Rocky Road.
Life is busy. Between work, the commute to and from work, taking care of a family and participating in extracurricular activities, there is hardly time to maintain a regular yoga practice.
For the majority of us, work and our commute take up most of our time on an average day, so wouldn’t it be nice to throw in some yoga and mindfulness in the few open spaces you can squeeze in?
“Patience is not learned in safety.” -Pema Chodron
Spring tests my patience. Every single year. Especially here in Colorado, as the weather whips back and forth between snow and sun, and as calm mornings give way to blustery afternoons, my patience is tried every spring. I become anxious for warmer, more stable weather.
Every spring, I am reminded once again that I am not in control. Patience is the only way through.
We humans, though, don’t learn patience the easy way. We don’t learn patience when things are going our way. Rather, we learn patience when we are tested, and when we finally have to accept that we can’t control the world.
We love our veterans and thank them for their service. Not all veterans served in a war, but those who did—whether they saw action in World War II, the Vietnam War, Iraq or Afghanistan—changed. It’s no secret that many of our military still suffer from the invisible, psychological scars of war after being deployed. Many also return home with physical challenges. All have been altered in some way. And they need help.
When I first saw the notice for the inversions workshop, I was excited. But after I signed up and paid, I was nervous. When the day arrived and I was warming up on my mat, I was terrified! What if I was the worst one there? What if I fell on my face? What if I fell on my neighbor? So many fears.
I may very well have been the worst one there, but I did not fall on my face, nor did I fall on my neighbor. What I did do was find the strength to push myself further than I’d gone before.
There is a growing wave of alternative thinking in the world, and most of us are blessed to have a choice between conventional and alternative ways of living. This can include lifestyle choices, food choices, medical decisions, consumerism, spirituality and education, to name a few. What used to be considered radical is now finding its way into the mainstream.
In Boulder, Colo., where I live, there is an abundance of options for natural grocers, alternative health care practitioners and holistic education centers. Even our pets have access to natural foods and medicines. And for a city of only 100,000, there are more than 60 yoga studios in the community. Needless to say, I am at home in this place.
Here, my tendencies toward natural living are fed by the abundant and accessible information about how to integrate even more natural practices into my daily life. For instance, I was thrilled to slowly cut out every toxic product from my routine and replace it with something that wasn’t (in my mind) ruined by processing, chemicals or the like. I felt so proud of myself and my ability to live a sustainable, plant-based, organic existence!
That said, you can only imagine how I must have felt when I was faced with a very unwanted health condition that every doctor — holistic and conventional — seemed unable to diagnose.
I live for my morning cup of coffee. Sometimes I get excited about going to bed at night just because it means I can wake up and drink coffee. When my alarm goes off, I climb into my terrycloth robe and shuffle downstairs, my dog Ellie at my heels. I savor every part of my morning ritual, from the first whiff of the ground beans as I scoop them out of their tin, to the quiet sitting while I wait for my coffee to brew. I take my mug to the couch and prepare for the first sip, which feels like my own private moment with God. Ellie puts her head on my lap and we sit there in silence in our little church by the window.
This sacred time gives me the space to be with myself; it encourages me to listen to me — the voices in my head are too sleepy to chime in with their usual agenda and commentary. And that’s a good thing because I like to spend my mornings doing nothing in particular. If I’m in the mood, I’ll putter around my house and tend to this or that. Maybe I’ll water the plants . . . or not. Maybe I’ll write . . . or not. The rest of my day is directed by obligation — things I have to do, or “should” do — which makes the guiltless moments of my morning feel even more precious.
Our home practice can be a lot like my cherished morning time. No one telling us what to do. No agenda to follow. It’s just you and your breath in that vehicle we call the body, cruisin’ wherever you wanna go.
As a yoga instructor, I am blessed to be able to share such a positive, life-changing practice with people, on and off the mat. When I first started teaching yoga, it never really occurred to me how my practice would work its way into my life off the mat, but it has.
I’m frequently asked, “So what do you do for a living?” When I state that I teach yoga, I usually get many responses about how much yoga has made a difference in someone’s life and how much they love their practice, but occasionally I get the “yoga…I’m not flexible enough to do yoga” response.
I respond that for that reason alone they are perfect for yoga, as yoga creates flexibility, rather than flexibility creating yoga. While I find it sad that people think they have to be flexible in order to take a yoga class, I also understand where this impression comes from, because with the growth in the popularity of yoga, there has become more growth in the amount of celebrity yoga instructors and yoga models who can twist themselves into various pretzel poses.
If all yoga studios and practices were the same, how boring would that be?
There’s this talk of what “is” and “isn’t” yoga and where you should and shouldn’t go. If you ask me, that kind of talk is pointless and irrelevant.