How is this relevant to yoga?
Have you ever strained yourself in a yoga class or come out feeling demoralised? Sometimes it's simply a case of finding the right style of yoga to suit you - there are as many ways as there are teachers and it may be that you need to shop around a little. But it may also be less to do with WHAT you were doing, and more about the WAY you were doing it.
Yoga is thought of as a physical exercise. Yoga asana (posture) practice is indeed that. But yoga is different from most other forms of exercise in that, in its true holistic form, it also requires your full attention and openness to learning.
Yoga is an ancient philosophy, thousands of years old. Yoga practice is about finding ways of discovering peace of mind and learning how to live life to the full. The body comes into this story, of course, because if you are uncomfortable in your body then you will more than likely be uncomfortable in your mind. So working to free tensions and heal injuries in the body, and to find your optimum health, you are more able to relax and feel good in yourself. Physical and mental health go hand in hand.
An important part of yoga practice is exploring our attitudes and beliefs which can have a direct effect on the quality of body movement. The 10 yama and niyama listed by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutra around 2,000 years ago (give or take), are attitudes which are very worthy of our thought and contemplation in the 21st century. They are not rules, but more like ethical guidelines that help us to improve our life skills. Yes they are a philosophy and well worth thinking about, but they also need to be applied to be of any use to us. Relating yama and niyama to our yoga practice can change the way we experience and look at our bodies.
In my yoga classes this term we will be looking at the yama and niyama. We will consider one per session, and reflect on how our own personal attitudes and beliefs around the concept, shape the way we live in the world, and move our bodies. We will apply these ideas to our physical asana practice.
We will will start with the first yama - ahmisa, which is about compassion and non-harming, towards ourselves or others. We will consider how we move into and out of yoga poses safely. Are we working with compassion and kindness to ourselves? Do we have habitual movement patterns that are hindering rather than helping? What degree of challenge is useful, and when does that become harm? Are we hanging on to old ideas of 'no pain, no gain' which have no place in yoga practice?
Note that this is a physical asana practice, but it is suitable for anyone with a body, and a willingness to explore. All ages, genders, shapes, sizes, beginners, experienced, stiff and bendy humans are welcome. You will be guided how to adapt the practice to your own physical needs and invited to explore privately your own thoughts and attitudes around the theme of the day. No preparation for the classes are needed, but if you'd like to do a little reading on yama and niyama, I quite like this overview here and also this one here. My biography is here.
For details please see my yoga class page