Yoga 24/7/24! (continuation)

Yoga 24/7/24! (continuation)

Classical Yoga outlines eight limbs, or branches, of practice. First, and most neglected in group yoga instruction, are the yamas and niyamas: yoga’s Ten Commandments. Five principles address how we interact with other beings and the planet, including non-harming, non-stealing, and being truthful; the rest, are personal practices like cultivating contentment, fervent exertion, and devotion or surrender. 

Yoga 24/7/24 - 8 LIMBS OF YOGA

Importantly, we are instructed to practice these principles:

  • Toward all beings
  • In all situations
  • At all times 24/24!).

And just as importantly, in:

  • Thought
  • Word
  • And deed.

During my first yoga teacher training, we were instructed to pin one yama or niyama to our refrigerator doors each week and practice it for seven days. “Non-harming” (which encompasses all ten!) came first. I was dismayed to confront the carbon footprint of my actions: everything I did somehow contributed to air, water, or land pollution. I was frustrated when I got rude or impatient with customer service (word). I was disturbed to discover so many harmful thoughts pass through my mind in a single day, or hour, whether aimed at others or more often at myself. As the weeks went on, I learned that while not technically a thief, I do “steal” people’s time, attention, and affection. I don’t always tell the truth. I often lie to myself, justifying certain behaviors I’m not proud of.

The Buddhists say: “The thought leads to the word. The word leads to the deed. The deed becomes a habit, and habit hardens into character. So be sure that your thoughts come from a place of love.” Rout out your regretful thoughts before they turn you into a monster!

Yoga’s eight limbs are a ladder to be mastered in order: We have no business practicing poses, or breathwork, or meditation until we’ve addressed how we behave in the outer world—the yamas and niyamas. Once that’s sorted, you can move on up.

climbing a ladder

Asana is usually translated as “pose” or “posture.” We also strike “poses” throughout our daily lives: We slip into a car seat or plunk down on the couch. We lean forward to push a vacuum and curl up in bed.

Over time, these unconscious poses can wreak havoc on our bodies. Remember how awkward and limited you felt at your first yoga class? That’s the result of a lifetime of bad body habits. Think of mat yoga as physical therapy, a means to rebalance and restore your body to its best. But also be mindful of how you are doing those yoga poses! To get the most out of your practice, tune up basic poses like up dog, tree, and shoulder stand with my short YouTube videos.

Yoga’s practices get more subtle the higher up the ladder we go. Pranayama, or breathwork, follows asana. Yoga alternately restricts and expands the breath to redirect the prana (life force, energy) through our systems. Along the way, you become a better breather throughout the day.

Yoga’s top four limbs invite us into the inner world of meditation. The goal is not to relieve stress or check out but to connect the little self (ego, individual identity) with the higher Self (divine oneness). Sustaining some degree of “double vision,” experiencing both simultaneously, may be impossible, but it’s my primary life goal. I envision a world in which we all behave as though we remember we are all connected. As Einstein put it, “Man’s greatest misunderstanding is the illusion that there is more than one of us.”

there more than one of us

Here’s to a whole-some 24!





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