The reason why it has taken me so long to get this blog post out is because I have been busy writing A LOT of essays to hand in for my yoga teacher training! One of the essays asked us to discuss the Yamas and Niyamas – the moral and ethical codes that a yogi tries to adhere to.
We were asked to pick one Yamas and one Niyamas as to discuss out of:
- Ahimsa: non-violence
- Satya: truthfulness
- Asteya: non-stealing
- Brahmacharya: non-excess
- Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-greed.
- Saucha: purity
- Santosha: contentment
- Tapas: self-discipline, training your senses
- Svadhyaya: self-study, inner exploration
- Ishvara Pranidhana: surrender
The Yamas I chose was Ahimsa – non-violence. When I first heard about Ahimsa I thought that this would be an easy thing to follow – but the more I read about this Yamas the more it resonated with me and the more of an understanding of what ahimsa truly means. Ahimsa doesn’t have to mean non-violence in terms of physically towards other people, it can simply mean – be kind to yourself.
How many times do we ask ourselves – ‘am I a failure?’ ‘Am I good enough?’ One doctor who has been helping me with my insomnia asked me to imagine the younger version of myself aged 6 sitting next to me in school uniform, legs unable to reach the floor, swinging back and forth, big smile on her face. He then said to me, “All these things you believe about yourself, would you be able to say them to that little girl?” It made me realise how cruel and disabling my thoughts had slowly become. Violent thoughts towards ourselves become such regular patterns of behavior and I think Ahimsa is really important in combating this.
During my research into Ahimsa I came across Patanjali’s way of combating negative thoughts:
Firstly: cultivate positive thoughts.
Secondly: stop identifying with your thoughts.
I thought it was really interesting that through CBT and mindfulness I had already been trying to practice this in my life over the last 6 months. I realised that so many of the modern ideas in terms of CBT and mindfulness are embedded in the various yoga teachings…. I was already practicing yoga and didn’t know it!
The Niyamas I chose was Santosha – contentment. I am not sure whether I have felt truly content in my life for a while….until I started yoga and quit my job. I knew I needed to work out what I was going to do in terms of work, and the future but I started to try not give myself expectations to live up to. I think that expectations are the root of a lot of anxiety. At the time that I decided to go into health and fitness I had no expectations – I had never ever imagined this life for me so it became an exciting prospect, instead of a constant fear and panic of ‘is this life going to live up to my expectations?’ ‘Am I going to be good enough to make it?’
Santosha helps me worry less about what will happen and feel happy about what is happening right now. That doesn’t mean to say that I can’t or shouldn’t think about what’s going to happen, but I think practicing Santosha helps me make better, healthier, happier decisions for the future.
I came across a quote that I by Nischala Joy Devi: “Smile, it changes everything. Practicing smiling is like planting the seed of a mighty redwood. The body receives the smile, and contentment grows. Before you know it, you’re smiling all the time.”