A beautiful butterfly dropped me a message the other day inquiring about information and tips on yoga and self-care. As an evolving student and practitioner of yoga, I believe it is important for me to share yoga’s deeper meaning. More often “yoga” is brought up in conversations implying the “asanas”, or physical postures. “Wanna try some goat yoga this Sunday?” “No, I’m busy, but there is Wine Yoga this Thursday night if your down?” Does this sound familiar?
This is a piece of the bigger yoga puzzle. Yoga is really about a spiritual awakening. Its not a religion or a cult. It has its place in cultivating a higher awareness. Yoga means union of mind and breath, body and spirit. It is more than just stretchy pants and messy buns, it is a lifestyle. Yoga is a gift from India’s spiritual heritage, making its offerings strange to some and oddly satisfying to others.
If you are interested in learning more about yoga, I encourage you to keep seeking. The Yoga Journal offers a good article on suggested books: The Yoga Books Every Yogi Should Own. Take more than just one yoga class and visit more than just one studio. In other words, try a variety of offerings. If you are somewhat put back by all the “teachings” and “chanting”, please understand its really just using sound vibration. Vibrations that get in touch with Universalism and the stories explaining philosophy. You have a choice to create your own reality, you own your beliefs. Try a workshop or retreat, we have two local studios in the Laguna Madre Area that offer daily classes and guest teachers: www.lagunamadreyoga.com and www.asiangardensyoga.com. I love taking classes when I travel. I have taken classes in Sri Lanka, Mexico, Hawaii, and across the US. Each experience is completely unique yet familiar in the sense that I am living and doing yoga. Watch videos, practice with a friend, hire a private session, or do all three! In the following I offer some practical and personal tips on how I incorporate the 8 limbs of Yoga on a daily level:
- Yama. Ethical Standards and Integrity. Yama’s are Universal practices otherwise known as the Golden Rule. When I’m stuck waiting for customer service I watch and observe. Instead of fueling my frustration I try to cultivate compassion….I think, if “I’m this annoyed waiting for my turn I’m sure this employee is just worn out.Perhaps they have something going on in their personal life that is causing them to be distracted and creating difficulty for him or her to do their best while at work. How can I help this person or situation so we all can be winners.”
- NiYama. Self-discipline and Spiritual Observances. We all have a spirit within us and thats what makes spirituality so accessible. Church and worship services are obvious; however, you can take time throughout your day to quiet the senses and listen. Say thank you by doing kind acts for others and Mother Earth. Pick up trash as you are walking into the store or greet people with a quite smile. Be sensitive to the noise that enters your head. Turn it ALL off and go out in nature. Read a book, listen to a podcast, and absorb kindness and pure love in simple transactions.
- Asana. Postures to cultivate discipline. A lot of times I hear people say they are not flexible enough for yoga. Are you too thirsty for water? Don’t worry about “yoga poses” just get down on the ground and roll around until it starts feeling good. Don’t forget to breath! Take time to release more air on the exhalation to trigger your body into relaxing and recharging naturally.
- Pranayama. Breath Control. Its a battle and constant effort, but I listen for a nurturing voice reminding me to breathe in all situations. During conflicting views with my family it helps contain my sharp tongue. It guides me to the wisdom I need to share my passionate point of view. I often use it in my line of work as a pediatric occupational therapist. I tell the children, “lets take a break”. Then we put our hands together and breath deeply 3-5 breaths. Its a positive coping strategy that we both benefit from.
- Pratyahara. Withdrawal of the senses. Look here! Our senses never stop, but we must learn how to detach from them. When we reach for that glass of wine or pint of ice cream, just stop and once again breath. Ask and listen to why you really want your craving. “I’m tired, I’m overwhelmed, I’m sad, I’m bored, or I’m already broken” are often deeper needs wanting to be met. Can you do something more honest and real for yourself ? Its perfectly ok have your cake and eat it too, but at least enjoy it, and then try to problem solve for something you really need like that good night’s sleep.
- Dharana. Concentration. In order to focus our attention I think it helps to realize how easily our mind can be distracted. So for 10 minutes, sit in a space where you can be still. Listen to all the voices inside your head. Take each voice, give them a chair or a Zafu, and put them in timeout. These thoughts are not you. Return to deep, calm breathing.
- Dhyana. Meditation. In this stage your mind has been quieted. Eventually your living room is full of strangers aka. the thoughts you’ve moved outside of yourself and you just breathe. Meditation is like the Little Engine that Could. You only learn how to get better at it by practicing. Do whatever you need to do to just be still and breath…1 minute, 5 minutes, 30 minutes to an hour. You choose but you must try!!!
- Samadhi. Bliss. The experience of bliss comes for me when I feel at one with the Universe. This feeling happens randomly. Its not when I’m connected to a device, but rather when I am completely present in the moment. Laughing on the floor with my son, splashing my husband as we wait for the next big wave to ride, or bringing my hands together at my heart in gratitude.
Author: LaVida Jud
LaVida resides in Port Isabel,TX working as a pediatric Occupational Therapist. She enjoys simple pleasures with her husband and their new son. She also enjoys surfing, healthy living, and any excuse to play outside. She found yoga in high school and still continues to explore its deeper meaning. LaVida has taught wellness and fitness for over a 15 years in a variety of formats, including yoga. If you have any questions, comments or concerns she says “just reach out!”, she is always happy to share.