Stepping off my yoga mat, and rolling up my career as a yoga teacher (for now!) has given me the time and space to contemplate my personal spiritual practices. While I may not pump out one sun salutation after another, or find my balance in half moon pose, I am still committed to yoga as a path of self awareness.
For those who attended my teacher trainings, and others who understand the many facets of yoga, doing the work on the mat is only a small part of the discipline as a whole. For those who do not, allow me to explain.
Patanjali, the mystic author of the Yoga Sutras, laid out a constructive outline of yoga, a systematized Hindu philosophy, sometime around 200 AD. To make a loooooong story short, this outline is broken down into eight parts, called limbs. One limb is asana, or the yoga poses. Okay, we get that. Two of the limbs, the Yamas and the Niyamas each contain sub-categories. These are essentially the do's and the don'ts of moral living. (Think Ten Commandments, but try not to cringe.) The Niyamas are the do's. There are five. Without listing every one (you can Google it) I'm going to get to the point I was trying to make earlier about my practice as of late. The fourth Niyama is Svadhyaya, or self study. Patanjali said in the Yoga Sutras, "Study thyself, Discover the Divine."
How do we get to know ourselves better? Sufi poet, Rumi wrote, "Let the beauty you love be what you do: There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground."
In yogic terms, the practice of Sadhana sweeps us onto the path of self discovery. Traditionally practiced as a meditation in the early hours of dawn, Sadhana quiets the mind so we may experience a direct connection with our inner world, and therefore find the divine voice within.
I have learned that forcing myself to get out of a warm bed at four in the morning to meditate makes my divine voice bark and growl. If you agree, I wrote a little something for you.
Rule number one: accept who you are. Use your strengths to usher you into a Sadhana practice that feels innately good in your mind and body. For example, do you enjoy knitting? Does it clear your mind and make you happy? If so, perhaps training for a marathon goes against the grain of how you find contentment. Prioritize those activities that bring you joy, and then add some deliberation to them.
When you engage in an activity you love, set an intention prior to beginning. If you love knitting, study the wool skeins with detailed attention. Absorb the colors of thread wrapped in organized synchronicity. Notice unique attributes such as the way light reflects off the needles in your hand. Witness the contrast of natural yarn wrapped around shiny metal. Breathe deep. Clear your mind. Celebrate the tickle in your heart this joyful activity brings to your soul.
When your special Sadhana has commenced, say a prayer of gratitude for the ability to feel joy participating in a practice that makes your spirit soar. Notice how the world around you seems brighter. It may not look like a traditional practice on the outside, but it will sure feel like one in your heart. Let the beauty you love, be what you do, and ultimately, let it be who you are.