I have been thinking about how we approach the beginning of a new year. Some of us start with a list of resolutions, things we will never do, eat, or say again, vowing to run, jump, aerobicize, jazzercise, yogasize (?) for hours a day or volunteer or meditate every day. …. By setting unrealistic goals we prime ourselves for “not succeeding” which then makes us feel badly about ourselves, and then maybe we give up all together….
Many years ago, the long time (and very wise) priest at my church talked about most Lenten “sacrifices” being self-serving, along the lines of new year’s resolutions. He proposed, instead, to focus during Lent on living our life in more christian ways, with good and positive behaviors. When I make this religious reference, I mean it spiritually, christian with a lower case c. This pondering got me thinking about combining doing good for others with living a healthier, more enlightened life, and of course my thoughts turned to the yoga sutras!
We can take inspiration from the ancient text, The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. This text is sort of a handbook on how to proceed along your path to a meaningful and purposeful life and ultimately spiritual enlightenment. Living our yoga off the mat. There are 8 limbs of yoga outlined in the sutras, and only one, the asanas, relates to a physical practice. The other 7 relate to breath, guidance or rules to live your life by and meditation. Rather than short term goals, taken as a whole, the 8 limbs are like a guidebook for a life lived with both ethical and moral behavior as well as self-discipline.
How about this? Let’s approach the new year with a kinder, gentler plan. Instead of making sweeping pronouncements, I propose we dive in and take some inspiration from the sutras and see where we land.
To give you an overview of the 8 limbs, please see below, taken from an article at chopra.com called “What are the Eight Limbs of Yoga?”
The Yamas are rules of moral code and include ahimsa (non-violence or non-harming), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), bramacharya (sexual restraint), and aparigraha (non-possessiveness).
The Niyamas are rules of personal behavior including saucha (purity), santosha (contentment), tapas (discipline or austerity), svadhyaya (spiritual studies), and Ishvara Pranidhana (constant devotion to God).
Asana refers to yoga postures but in Patanjali’s initial practice, it referred to mastering the body to sit still for meditation. The practice of yoga asanas came about eight centuries later, which helped disciples ready their bodies for meditation.
Pranayama is yoga breathing techniques designed to control prana or vital life force.
Pratyahara means withdrawal of the senses.
Dharana refers to concentration.
Dhyana is the practice of meditation.
Samadhi is merging with the divine.
Are you excited to learn more?
Below is a link to a simple article from Yoga Journal listing the eight limbs and an article with more detail on the philosophy from yoga teket.
Our Practice – Twisting the Old Away
Whether you believe that twisting postures actually “wring” toxins out of your organs, stimulate circulation (or not), it is undeniable that twisting poses help with spinal range of motion and overall flexibility. I like the symbolism of twisting or wringing bad things out (like parts of 2021) and getting things healthfully flowing. So, in that spirit, as we enter 2022, our practice this week will incorporate lots of twists.
For more on this topic, see link to article in YogaJournal on this topic.
Meditation – New Years “Resolutions” - inspired by Swami Sivananda
“Adhere to: faith, unity and sacrifice. Avoid: backbiting, falsehood and crookedness. Admire: frankness, honesty, and large-heartedness. Control: Tongue, temper and tossing of the mind. Cultivate: cosmic love, forgiveness, and patience. Hate: lust, anger and pride” - Swami Sivananda, Indian Spiritual Leader
Nurturing with Food - (New Yeqr's) Black Eyed Pea and Greens Soup
I used to make a side dish of greens and black-eyed peas for the holidays. Some versions were called Hopping John and were not vegetarian as they contained ham hock or bacon. I came up with my own version, adding more vegetables and subtracting the meat, and for some reason my sister and I started calling it Jumping Jack Flash, don’t ask me why!! Knowing that black eyed peas are considered good luck, and are to be eaten on New Years Day, and craving soup, I developed this version.
See you on the mat!