One of the most beautiful aspects of yoga is that it is a complete life philosophy (in my opinion). Through continuous daily practice we can learn, understand and experience it. The practice is not limited to the mat, asana is just one of the “tools” we can use. Actually the true wisdom of yoga is to apply it in all our daily activities.
Life no doubt can feel challenging at times. Events come and sometimes we cannot understand their reason, other times we are grateful for them. Life is a rhythm; a fluctuation of constant movement and changing events, shifting rapidly. We can see this in the nature, its seasons and polarities of day and night. We too experience these shifts, from shadow to light and vice versa. Our moods change based on external events or internal shifts. People enter our life and then they leave. Places we once felt connected to, no longer seem familiar. Jobs that we dreamed of doing, can turn into a chore. Relationships that brought us happiness, sometimes end in disappointment. These are the rhythms of life, most of them which we cannot control. So how can we learn to flow with this rhythm and all it brings following the teachings of yoga?
BEING PRESENT, STAYING CENTRED
Life is constantly changing. Rarely we stay present with each experience; most of the time we are physically present but the mind is either in the past, future or in judgement. If we can learn to be in the experience in real time, as it comes, without the need to judge it but to simply live it, we can find our balance. This is what dharana (concentration) & dhyana (meditation) practices teach us. To be still, to be present. In life, there are times we need to be active and dynamic and times when we need to be passive and pause. If we can find the middle ground, then we can learn to go through each event of life with more ease, in a state of acceptance & balance.
BE FREE FROM SELFISH DESIRE
Setting goals is part of life and most of us are taught that life is about becoming something great and ticking things off our To Do list, that the more we achieve, the greater we are…The philosophy teaches us that whether we tick things off or not or achieve anything, we are still great. Because our true self is the greatest light there is in each one of us, coated in these layers of physical experience. Instead of focusing on how you can be greater, yoga teaches us to shift this onto the collective, “How can we better be of service, do great for others, the nature etc”…We should indeed strive to live a life of integrity and bringing good to the world. It is our duty as human beings to be of service in some way. When we are in a constant state of desire, suffering will come. Because if the desired outcome does not happen, then this will bring disappointment. And when the desire is fulfilled, another desire will follow and the cycle continues.
VAIRAGYA - DETACHMENT
This is perhaps one of the hardest aspects of the philosophy. Most of us love with attachment and condition. Many even attach to their spiritual practice. We cling onto things, places, careers etc to give us some sort of solid ground on who we think we are and how we live our life. Attachment in the philosophy is said to only bring dukkha, suffering. Everything is temporary, including our relationships. So no doubt suffering will be experienced if we attach to anything or anyone, because as it comes, at some point it will go. Practicing vairagya is difficult. It requires time, patience and faith. For some, unlearning the conditions they have learned throughout life. But when we start to feel joy and be grateful for every thing, every person, every aspect life gifts us with, without needing to be dependant on it or claim ownership for it, then we are free. And this internal state of freedom is one of the most powerful insights we can realise from the yoga philosophy.
KNOW YOURSELF BEYOND FORM
One of the key outcomes of a consistent and dedicated yoga practice (this goes beyond just asana practice) is the realisation that we are not just the body and the mind but that beneath these, the essence which reflects through these is our true nature. These are indeed the objects of manifestation in physical life of our essence. This is difficult to understand and it requires consistent practice and reaching the highest forms of spiritual practice, such as meditation and Samadhi/enlightenment; the awakening of what I am, the true meaning of self-realisation. All the physical aspects of the self are constantly changing & impermanent, but the essence remains. It is not bound, dependant or affected by any external factors. This is where the meaning of “union” of yoga comes in to join all the dots and reach the AHA moment. How are we all connected? Because we all are just one essence manifested in different form.
This delicious stewed spiced apples dish is an Ayurvedic recipe, usually taken at breakfast. Although it can also make a wonderful healthy dessert. I first had this delicious dish when I was studying to become an Ayurvedic practitioner, over a decade ago. It is still one of my favourites.
This vegan recipe is quick and easy to make, has only 4 ingredients and it takes less than 20 minutes. Apples are very well suited for the Pitta dosha predominant individuals especially those which are sweeter. Raw apples can increase Kapha and Vata, however this recipe is suited for both because the apples are well cooked, making them easier to digest and combined with the two spices which pacify all three doshas.
2 apples (diced)
2 tbsps of Cinnamon
1 tbsp of Cardamon
Coconut oil for the cooking
1.Dice the apples into small cubes.
2.In a pot or pan, add coconut oil and when it is hot, add the spices. Let these cook for about 1-2minutes.
3.Add the apples and stir well with the spices.
4.Add 2 cups of water and let it all simmer for about 10 minutes at low heat.
When the apples are soft, it is ready.
You can serve with Gluten-free toast and sultanas, or on their own.
Sciatica can be experienced by anybody and it can feel very uncomfortable, at times with quite intense and sharp pain. This painful sensation is caused when the sciatic nerve is irritated and is most commonly felt in the lower back, buttocks area or in the back of the thigh/leg as the nerve runs down the leg. It can also be felt during sitting for prolonged periods of time, bending forward, running or during long walks. The causes are not always known, but with gentle movement and care, we can help to relieve it.
It is important to consider that sciatica can be caused by different factors so always check with your GP or healthcare medical practitioner if you experience this to check the cause and determine the reason for the pain and the severity of it.
These Yin yoga style asanas provide a gentle stretch to some of the key areas where sciatica affects the body, and some can help to develop more strength in the back. These should be practiced gently, without forceful movement. The body can feel sensitive whilst experiencing sciatica pain and depending on the severity of it, so it is best to practice light and very gentle asanas. Use props as optional to aid with the postures.
If you are pregnant, have any injuries/past recent surgery, sciatica & other symptoms of body pain, it is best to check with your GP first before practicing these.
Supta Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
Supported Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
One of the most important aspects of a yogic lifestyle is discipline and creating a daily yoga routine that you will actually stick with requires commitment. Life is busy and we tend to fill our days with so many different activities, some useful, some not. But our wellbeing should always be a priority. If we feel good in the body and mind, then we can live with more ease and handle any of life’s events with a clear mind and composed state.
Here are some aspects to consider that can help you create a daily yoga routine:
In order to be successful at anything, we must learn to be consistent with it. In the Raja yoga path and in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (the de-codifier of yoga), he mentions Abhyasa, which can translate as keeping consistent to your practice. Patanjali says that the practice must be done everyday, at the same time in the same place. Focus on the quality not the quantity. Your practice doesn’t need to be of a specific length, but it should be effective for you. If you know that you will only stick to 10 minutes a day, when you get on your mat and stretch, or practice pranayama, or whatever your practice may be, then do that. But do it daily. Pressuring yourself to a specific duration will not work. After a while, you will most likely give up if it does not fit with your daily schedule. So instead of forcing yourself to a duration of time and causing stress in your life, choose the time that works for you.
Detach from a specific outcome
Creating goals in life can definitely help in many ways, but in yoga philosophy it works differently. The main reason of yoga as a lifestyle is to empty the mind, become strong and flexible in the body so that the mind can also be focused, clear and adaptable. If you fill your mind with goals, you create expectations and overwhelm yourself. And then you will attach to these. Desire in the philosophy is said to only bring suffering. For example, if your daily practice is asana and you have the desire to reach a specific yoga pose and after practicing for 2 months you still cannot do it, you will feel discouraged. At some point even frustrated and question yourself, your body’s abilities and if yoga actually works. This is what we want to avoid in our practice. These are ego related mental concepts, and practicing yoga is about less ego and more awareness. So just do your practice daily, without attachment to an outcome or any goal. Get on your mat, or whatever your practice is, just do it and let whatever comes to come. If you practice waiting for an outcome or a specific result, then you will always keep your mind active. And in any yogic practice, the mind should become more silent.
Get clear on what your yoga practice is
This brings up the next aspect. What is your yoga practice? Yoga itself is a philosophy and it goes beyond the physical aspect most people know it as. Which is your yoga path? To figure this out, you can just reflect on which practices help you calm your mind and create balance in your life. If you are more interested and benefit from daily asana practice, make that your primary sadhana (spiritual practice). If it’s Pranayama (yogic breathing techniques) then choose that. If you practice Japa meditation (repetitive chanting using mala beads), make that your daily yoga routine. If sitting in silence for 5 minutes every morning is what takes you closer to your true self (inwards) and brings clarity to your mind, commit to this. Of course all of these can be practiced together and in my opinion we should have a variety of practices we do. But to keep consistent, you must first do the practice you know helps you and you will stick to. As time goes on, and you get deeper in your yoga routine, these will naturally become part of your day.
Choose the same time everyday
Consistency requires repetitive action of the same behaviour. It is said that it takes 21 days to create a habit, and 42 days for it to become naturally part of your life. A helpful way to develop this consistency is to practice everyday at the same time. If you are not a morning person, then choose evening time, or during the day. If you love mornings, then make that your practice time. Whichever suits you, do it everyday at the same time. Pick a time when you know you will definitely be able to stick with it. For example, I love early mornings. I do not have to force myself out of bed at an early time, because my body and mind are now used to being up early. So my time of sadhana is always then, because I know 100% I can stick to this.
Your practice is a personal experience. It should be done with enthusiasm and willingness. If you dread doing it then it will never work. Find what time suits you best, which practice takes you further away from the external and more connected within and commit to this beautiful journey.