“Take your yoga practice off the mat.” This is a common phrase you hear from yoga instructors. This past week I have had the chance to fully understand what it means.
I’m just in the beginning stages of my Yoga Teacher Training and I’m already seeing the various ways yoga is used off the mat. In particular, I am referring to the first 2 limbs of the 8-Fold Path of Yoga Sutras, also known as the 8 Limbs of Yoga, the steps to self-transformation and realization.
While preparing for my first quiz, people here in Florida are also preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Irma. One of the largest storms we have ever encountered. The size of the storm is double the size of the entire state of Florida. Needless to say, we all will feel Irma to some extent and in some ways we already have and the storm is not even here yet.
In these days leading up to the storm all of Florida has been preparing. During this time I have been able to observe my the thoughts and actions of myself and others. Many people frantic and anxious and others calm and helpful. These observations made me think of what I am learning in my YTT. How the first 2 steps or limbs of Yoga, the Yamas and Niyamas, can be applied to everyday situations, whether we are aware of them or not it’s in our thoughts and actions with ourselves and others that we practice these. The light bulb went off in my head and I now realized what it meant when people would say “taking yoga off the mat”.
Below is my understanding of the Yamas and Niyamas. Also, how they each apply to how we prepare for the storm.
Yamas, the 1st limb of Yoga, is the ways in which we interact with the outside world.
Ahimsa the first of the five Yamas, is to live so we cause no harm in thought, speech or action to any living being including ourselves. This is asking us be compassionate and kind to one another at all times and especially in times like these.
Satya is truthfulness. Stand in your own light when there are dark influences around. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in thoughts and beliefs that are not you. Trust your inner guidance when listening to the media and others.
Asteya do not steal. Do not steal other people’s belongings, ideas, or time. If you ask for help or advice be clear on what it is you are asking for and listen when people take the time to respond. Everyone’s time is precious so be courteous when using it. If people are without power and have broken windows do not go looting and making matters worse.
Brahmacharya is non-excess. Don’t overthink things and drive yourself crazy. Obsessing over the storm and the what ifs really is not going to do anything except for stress you out more.
Aparigraha do not be greedy. Only get what you need. Know when enough is enough. Don’t hoard the few supplies that are left in the stores. Share don’t take what you really don’t need.
Niyamas, the 2nd limb of Yoga, is how we interact, view, and think of ourselves.
Saucha is purity of heart and intention. Do things for yourself and others because you really want not because you think you have to.
Santosha is to be content, not complacent, but content in the eye of the storm, metaphorically speaking. So yea this storm is coming and it sucks, but enjoy this time off of school and work with your family and be content knowing you all are ok.
Tapas is a burning away of old mindsets and habits through the discipline of a daily practice, meditation, or mindfulness. This burning away then ignites a pure fire within. Right now, ego may have a hold on your emotions so take a moment to breathe, meditate, or stretch allowing the anxieties and ego to burn away so you can gain clarity and trust.
Svadhyaya is self-reflection without judgement. Realizing you are here, at this moment in time, for a reason and a purpose. Participate in sharing an offering love and respect to others at this time.
Ishvara Pranidhana surrender to the divine. If you are here in Florida, we haven’t been hit yet so enjoy the electric we all have now, enjoy a warm meal, clean clothes and dishes, our pets, and the food and water we eat and drink. See the beauty in all things big and small. Be grateful to those who help pick the food we eat from the store, the people who turn on our power when it is out, the ones who take away our waste and garbage.
In the midst of all the commotion, media hype, fears, and anxieties I have been able to already apply what I am learning in my Yoga Teacher Training to life. We are only in week 2, I look forward to what else there is to learn about yoga and myself.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the end either, we have more hurricanes on their way. Please everyone be kind, courteous, and helpful to one another. We are all in this together, these types of disasters affect all of us. Let your heart be your guide, and shine light in the darkness and together we will make it through these tough times.
To all those affected by Hurricane Harvey, the Earthquake in Mexico, and Hurricane Irma I send love, peace, and strength to you.
May all beings everywhere be happy and free,
and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute
in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.