Taking Yoga Off the Mat in the Eye of the Storm

yoga off the mat in the eye of the storm preparing in Florida for Hurricane Irma and Remembering the Yamas and Niyamas

 “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.

 

 

The Spark

The Spark that ignited my journey into natural healing

I began my journey into natural healing and metaphysics nine years ago. My grandfather, who I am very close with, became ill, and conventional medicine wasn’t the answer. I reached out to my friends who were into meditation, yoga, and acupuncture to see if they knew of any alternative means that could help him.

A dear friend, who was going to school for acupuncture, shared some insights with me about the Chakras, movement, and breath. She explained that there are seven main Chakras, wheels of energy, or vortexes that align, that start at the base of the spine, our root, and flow up to the top of our head, our crown. Each Chakra regulates different bodily processes, from organ functions, to the endocrine system, ailments, and mental and emotional states. Keeping the Chakras open and aligned requires a fine balance between the mind and body. If one Chakra is overactive or underactive then it cannot function properly, causing the others to not function at their optimal level, similar to a domino effect. She suggested that maybe this was what was going on with my grandfather. She said there are various ways to open up, clear, and balance our Chakras. The three that captured my attention most are sound, color, and movement. Being an ex-raver and lover of music and dance, finding out about this was right up my alley.

I had to find out more. One discovery led to the next, and much of what I was learning correlated with things I learned in psychology and in my own life; suddenly the unexplainable situations in my life now made sense. This newfound knowledge opened me up to a new perspective towards everything in life.

I took what I learned and went to visit him.

Now, imagine your old school, Italian grandfather, who is hard-of-hearing, stubborn, and impatient. I was about to explain about energy, relaxation, and how the healing happens inside of you through the Chakras.  I had no idea if he was even going to begin to be interested.

I got to town, we went for lunch, and he wanted to go to the casino. I convinced him otherwise because I had some information I wanted to share with him – an idea that may heal him with no negative side effects, no doctors, and no hospitals.

I told him about Chakras and how important it is to keep them healthy and in alignment through breath, meditation, yoga, and sound. I wasn’t sure if he was actually paying attention or could even hear me. Perhaps he was just acting interested. Nevertheless, I did my best.  The next day, I had to head back home. A couple of days later my mom called and shared that my grandfather had one of the best days he has had in a while.

My grandfather’s health returned, not because of a doctor’s orders or a pill, but through a little self-awareness and self-care. He really listened and applied what we talked about. He even found a yoga teacher to give him individual lessons, which he did consistently for a year. He also gained some patience and opened himself up to spirituality – I was shocked! Never did I think in a million years what I shared with him would have had such a lasting impact.

The spark was officially ignited and I was ready to discover more about how the Chakras work – how color, sound, movement, and meditation can help heal us individually and collectively, inside and out.