By Francesca Baker
When we discuss yoga and the eight limbs of the Yoga Sutra, the Patanjali, we may consider them to abstract principles, confined only to the mat and practice. But yoga is a way of life that should infuse all areas of our life. It is not always easy to engage with practice and connect with the principles and ideas involved, but here are some ideas to bring the Patanjali to the every day.
Yama – ethical relationship with society
Simple ways to act the principle of yama include recycling, volunteering, or even smiling at those around us. If we act in a nice and supportive way to the people and places around us, and conduct ourselves with a level of gratitude for our environment we will feel more connected and grounded in our dealings with the world.
Niyama – moral relationship with self
We all know what is right and wrong, for ourselves and according to our own rules. Your own moral code and conscience is an unwaverable guide as to the correct way to act. This does not just apply to how you act in social situation - as well as treating others as you would like to be treated, it is important to treat yourself as you would treat others. If you believe that it is important not to lie, then don’t lie.
Asana – steady posture
‘If you can keep your head…’ said Rudyard Kipling. He may not have been talking about the downward dog or have been over familiar with yoga (although was certainly well travelled around the Far East and Asia) but the attitude is one that can be encompassed in the principle of asana. Keep focused and steady, living according to your own values, and do not be shaken from them by the whims and fancies of other people. Listen to your wants and coulds, not the shoulds of other people.
Pranayama – control of vital energy
Direct your energy to positive feelings and actions that multiply and build on the good in the world, rather than take from it. There is too much negativity and ill feeling as it is. Remember the wisdom that ‘whatever you feed will grow.’ Keep feeding the bad stuff, and it will come back even stronger. But nurture the good, and goodness will thrive. Every night write down three things about your day that you have appreciated – keep feeding that positivity.
Pratyahara – ability to draw attention inward, away from sense
We are bombarded by external stimulation, and whilst being attuned to the senses is an important skill to cultivate and way to connect with the world, it is also necessary to take a step within, and focus ones thoughts on the self. This might be just five minutes a day when you consider your own thoughts. Try it whilst in the bath.
Dhrana – concentrating the mind
Focus is not always easy, especially in our busy and chaotic world. Concentrate on the one or two things that are important to you. If today you absolutely must get your taxes in order, then make sure you do that. If you have a weekend off and are looking forward to spending time with the kids, but also realise that there are plenty of household chores to be done, concentrate your focus on the thing most important to you. If you’ve laughed and played all weekend, but the washing up still is not done by Sunday evening, who cares – you have focused on your dhrana.
Dhyana – meditation
Meditation is one I find very difficult – but the prinviple is easy. Just be. Focus your mind on the experience of being. Living. That one moment. And the next. And the next. Oh look, my finger wiggles. The bird flies. See how that picture curls at the edge. My breath rises. And falls. Simple. When your mind drifts, come back to it.
Samadhi – the enlightened state
Well, if I had the answer to that I probably wouldn’t be doing this. Unless blogging for om exchange is the supreme embodiment of enlightenment?