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I remember the awkward, anxious feeling in my body as I climbed the stairs to the yoga studio. I sat at the back of a room full of ‘grown-ups’ wondering what on earth I had let myself in for. I left that same room an hour later feeling as though I was floating on a cloud.
Yoga worked its magic on me that very first day and it has been a mainstay of my life ever since- through good times and bad, through health and injury, through times of celebration and deep inner work, yoga has always been there for me.
It is my honour and great pleasure to be a yoga teacher.
So today I would love to share with you a few of the things yoga has taught me that have brought me the most benefit in my life.
1. Your body (really is) your temple…
You only get one vehicle to take you through life and it can be a source of great pleasure or great suffering.
Look after your body with great food, yoga, walking, swimming and dance and there is really no end to the joy it can bring you.
You might like to try this short yoga for gratitude practice to take a moment to appreciate your amazing body…
In the classes, I practice and teach I love to frequently take the time to re-arrive in the present moment. It is so powerful to observe the feelings within the body, to observe the breath and to observe thoughts when they inevitably arrive.
If you take the time to practice this awareness then you will begin to notice patterns in the thoughts that arise.
Do you tend towards worrying about the future?
Do you find yourself ruminating over the past?
Do you tend to make judgements of yourself or others?
…Much of the time your mind is probably just churning out irrelevant garbage. (no offence, we all do this!)
The good news is that by practising this awareness you can learn to catch thoughts as they spring up and then choose whether you want to take them on, or not.
You can choose whether to identify with your thoughts, act upon them, make them real or simply let them go. This simple awareness can help you return to experiencing the amazing, totally unique, present moment always happening right here right now.
Here’s a short mantra practice you can try to remember that your true identity goes well beyond the fluctuations of your thought patterns:
3. Yoga practice can go much further than the yoga mat…
The yoga we practice today has its roots in centuries of practices to cultivate health, vitality and the evolution of one's consciousness. In these days of social-media-yoga-celebrities where teachers can be judged by how many ‘followers’ they have the true meaning of yoga can sometimes get lost.
It is a system to unite body, mind and spirit, and to help one live up to one's highest potential. This has very little to do with how bendy one is or whether you can execute the perfect handstand.
Below is a brief summary of the 6 branches of yoga- these are a handy overview that has evolved over time that can help you to see the bigger picture of what exactly yoga is. It is important to remind you how many different paths there are to integrate if you really want to make the most of yoga in your life and that things like pratcing kindness to those around you (karma yoga) is every bit as important as what you do on your yoga mat in the morning.
Hatha Yoga- the yoga of the body:
This is the form most of us recognise from modern yoga classes. Hatha yogis use Asana (yoga poses), Pranayama (breathing techniques) and mastery over the senses as a vehicle for transformation. All types of physical yoga are actually types of Hatha Yoga.
Raja Yoga -Working with the eight limbs outlined by the sage Patanjali:
Gain mastery over one's moral conduct, breath and physical form, to withdraw one's energy from the senses, to gain mastery over ones concentration, to cultivate the state of meditation, and ultimately to experience transcendental bliss.
Bhakti Yoga-The yoga of the heart and devotion:
Using devotional practises like kirtan (mantra singing), and sacred ceremonies to dive into Self- Realisation
Jnana Yoga- The yoga of philosophy:
Studying scriptures and philosophical texts, debating the nature of reality and contemplating the true nature of life as a means of enlightenment.
Karma Yoga- The yoga of action:
Using charitable deeds and service to others as a way of attaining unity with all that is.
Nada Yoga- The yoga of sound:
Using mantras, sacred music, and the study of sound as a means of transformation and a path to higher states of consciousness.
Whichever path you follow I wish you a wonderful international yoga day, and that your year ahead is full of all the joy, bliss and progress that yoga can bring.