Yoga

A Spoonful of Sutras Makes the Yoga Go Down

If you are a yoga teacher or devout student you have heard of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. If you aren’t as familiar here is a short explanation: it is a guidebook to yogic philosophy, living, and the eight limbs of yoga (ashtanga). It was written by a man named Patanjali many, many, many, many, many, many, many years ago.  The word sutra means thread, and you can think about these words as threads of wisdom that weave your yoga life into a beautiful tapestry. If you want a little bit  more then click here.

Until I went to yoga teacher training I had never heard of these sutras, even though I was a “serious” student. I had a read a few yoga books like Chakra Yoga by Alan Finger, browsed Light on Yoga, and a few other small books. The Yoga Sutras was part of our required reading list for my program and I’ll be honest–I didn’t read them. I got a copy, the wrong one, it was so confusing (as they are very difficult to understand naturally) that I just gave up. I never made it past Sutra 1.1: now is the time for yoga.  If I wanted any info on a sutra I would just read a Clif Notes version on Yoga Journal or Yoga International. Last year I decided I would try the sutras again. So I bought the copy that I was suppose to in teacher training with every intention of picking it up–I never did. It collected dust with all my other books that I don’t read, haven’t read yet, kinesology textbooks, and poetry.

 

IMG_20170522_150411922

 

As I have talked about before on my social media pages my practice began to shift around last summer and hasn’t stopped. My practice grew deeper, not just physically but mentally. I was having questions about yoga all while facing my recovery and dealing with some serious anxiety. Then when I  moved to OKC I started teaching more than I have before and my physical practice became more internal, so I picked up my sutras. I made a commitment to read a sutra a week. I was good for two weeks then I took time off, because #lifehappens, but I picked it back up because I am really committed to this.

 

IMG_20170830_121714608

 

My study is very simple. I have three versions of the yoga sutras (pictured below) and I read a sutra each week (or attempt to). I make stars with pink ink in the margins denoting phrases of super importance, highligting sanskrit words (always working on deepening those skills), and things that are very important I underline in black ink. I read the same sutra in each version and compare the them. Then in my own journal I write down in my own words what each sutra means. By writing them in my own language it helps to cement them into my mind and spirit to let me fully live them.

While I’m only five deep they have definitely been challenging and changing. Especially Sutra 1.3-1.4. They will be getting their own blog post at some point. I’m looking forward to where this will take me. If you have read or are reading the Yoga Sutras share your favorite resource in the comments section.

 

IMG_20170919_133222003

Stepping into Karma

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”-Step 12, EDA Version

karma: Sanskrit for action

 

In many different spiritual paths we are called to help and be of service to others. Through serving others we are able to show people that kindness does exist in what can be seen as a cruel world. That there is something more to life than just the everyday drudgery of Facebook scrolling, Neflixing, coffee drinking, working that 9-5, and sleeping. For those of us who have chosen a recovered life it is imperative that we serve others who were once (still) like us by sharing our story and helping them out.

Step 12 is an action step calling for us to be stewards and it reminds me of another action: karma. We are all familiar with the concept of karma, but the concept of “what goes around comes around” isn’t what karma truly is. My favorite explanation of karma is by Jack Kornfield in his book, A Path With Heart, “karma means that nothing arises by itself. Every experience is conditioned by that which precedes it. Thus our life is a series of interrelated patterns” (273). Kornfield later states, “the intention or attitude that we bring to each situation of life determines the kind of karma we want to create. Day to day, moment to  moment, we can begin to see the creation of the patterns of karma based on the intentions in our heart” (279).

 

singing-bowl-2576487_640

 

This is precisely what those of us in recovery are to do with our daily lives while waving our recovery flags. Our hearts are to be so devoted to recovery that everything we do is to be intentional. Our intentions for sharing our stories isn’t to be boastful and “hey, look at me” it is to be honest, real, and selfless. We are intentionally making new patterns of behavior to correct patterns of the past.  It reminds me of a quote from my EDA Book, “As we begin to realize that our world has been changed for the better through the step work we have done, we simultaneously become aware that the gift of life in recovery comes with the responsibility to share it with others. Now that we have begun to experience healing in our lives we must extend a hand to those who still suffer”.

I hadn’t really thought much about my own personal recovery lately. I have been falling short on my steps–honestly I haven’t been living a 12 Step life. I lost my mission that I sat out to do when I first began this blog. I began imageoftheheart to share my experience with others who suffer or know people who are suffering, to help them make sense of this disordered world. And what have I been doing? Nothing. I haven’t been generating any  karma, just a pool of nothing.

 

volunteers-2654003_640

 

Over the past month people have reached out to me. I have answered questions on how to support loved ones with EDs. I’ve shared posts with those who are new to recovery. I even helped someone seek recovery. Between the Facebook messages and emails something began to stir within me. Something that I haven’t felt in a long time. Purpose. Direction. A moving current of karma. This karma current swelled within my heart and helped me get back on track. To start the steps over, to be intentional in my recovery and not just throw it to the side like stale piece of bread.

If what Kornfield says is true, “The heart is our garden, and along with each action there is an intention that is planted like a seed. The result of the patterns of our karma is the fruit of these seeds.(277)”. I want to sow beautiful fruit-ripe, juicy, organic recovery fruit. I am tired of have OK, slightly spotty recovery fruit. Since this is a new month I am taking accountability for my actions and starting over. Tilling up my soil and ready to sow new fruit that is sweet with karma.

How is the karma in your life? Are you generating positive action while sowing sweet fruit or are you just skirting by and sowing OK fruit? Are living with intention and removing yourself out of your actions towards others? If you aren’t happy with the answers or the taste of your fruit then take some time to re-focus. Make an intention to be intentional. Lend a helping hand to someone in need, share your story, hold space for others. Generate karma.

 

meditation-2151342_640

Words

As I am making a commitment to writing more I sit here wordless. Or maybe just distracted. I know I have things to say, because I always do, but for some reason I cannot access them.  Error 404.  While I may not have the right words, I know others do. You can “quote” me on that.

Who doesn’t love a good quote? Quotes are some of the best and simplest ways to find the right words when you can’t find any. They are also fun to memorize and use when you are in need of some encouragement or a little beauty. For years I have kept notebooks filled with quotes and song lyrics that resonate with me. They were inspirational, amusing, or acted as a guide through troubling times. Today I am going to share with you some of my favorite quotes. I hope you find some inspiration and beauty in these words as much as I do.

 

female-865110_640

 

On Eating Disorder Recovery

  • “To be beautiful is to be yourself. you don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”-Thich Nhat Hanh
  • “You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously.”-Sophia Bush
  • “Don’t be afraid to  move out of your comfort zone. Some of your best life experiences and opportunities will transpire only after you dare to lose.”-???
  • “It’s not your fault that you developed an eating disorder, or depression, or an addiction, or whatever else is trying to steal your life away. But it is your responsibility to save yourself. And you can.”-Josie Tuttle
  • “You can’ t change until you accept where you are and who you are. You find out who you are by being honest with yourself and others…Life is never static and neither are we.”-EDA Workbook, Step 1
  • ” Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves,  who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking  so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of u; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people to permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”-Marianne Williamson

 

mental-1389919_640

 

On Life

  • “If you add a little to a little, and then do it again, so that little shall be much”.-Hesoid
  • “Being impeccable with your word is the correct use of your energy; it means to use your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself. If you make an agreement with yourself to  be impeccable with your word, just with that intention, the truth will manifest through you and clean all the emotional posion that exists within you.” The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz
  • “All of humanity is searching for truth, justice, and beauty. We are on an eternal search for the truth because we only believe in the lies we have stored in our mind. We are searching for justice because in the belief system we have, there is no justice. We search for beauty because it doesn’t matter how beautiful a person is, we don’t believe that person has beauty. We keep searching and searching, when everything is already within us.”-Don Miguel Ruiz
  • “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”-Confucius
  • “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me. No fear.”-Nina Simone
  • “I was halfway across America, at the dividing line  between the East of my youth and the West of my future.” Jack Kerouac, On the Road
  • “Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is so on the road.” -Jack Kerouac, On the Road
  • “Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”-Hans Christian Anderson
  • “It doesn’t not matter how slowly you go; as long as you don’t stop.”-Confucius
  • “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.”-Douglas Adams

 

travel-2511678_640

 

On Yoga

  • “If I’m losing balance in a pose, I stretch higher and God reaches down to steady me. It works every time, and no just in yoga.”-T. Guillemets
  • “Yoga is possible for anybody who really wants it. Yoga is universal…But don’t approach yoga with a business mind looking for a worldly gain.”-K. Pattabhi Jois
  • “Do not stop trying just because perfection eludes you.”-BKS Iyengar
  • “Go from a human being doing yoga to a human being yoga.”-Baron Baptiste
  • “Yoga does not change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees.”-BKS Iyengar
  • “The attitude of gratitude is the highest yoga.”- Yogi Bhajan
  • “Yoga is almost like music in a way; there’s no end to it.”-Sting
  • “Yoga is a powerful vehicle for change. As you build strength you start to believe in your own potential.”-Tiffany Cruikshank
  • “Anyone can breathe. Therefore anyone can practice yoga.”-TKV Desikachar

 

people-2573216_640

 

What are some of your favorites quotes? Share below!

Back to the Mat of Things

The beauty of life and yoga is the fluidity of it. Life is always moving, forward, circular, constantly, never stagnant. Yoga is the same way. Yoga follows you wherever the current takes you. It helps you maintain the flow and keeps you from drowning in the waters of life. What else is great about yoga is that there are many limbs and facets to yoga that one can always practice it. If you follow me, take my classes, or know a little about my opinion on yoga; you know I always talk about the non asana limbs of yoga. While asana is great and much needed it shouldn’t be the only thing we focus on. Until recently, I never really understood how much asana is needed, especially in my life.

This past month has been a whirlwind. Talk about the never stagnant waters of life. May was the month of dance, dance, dance, new blog adventure (check out auminthearts.com), writing, yoga, and more dance. All this combined made for one tornadoesque month. There was so much going on that I didn’t get to practice much yoga…asana. I was trying to act mindfully, eat well, breathe, BUT, my asana practice was lacking. Which showed me how much that one limb of yoga influences the other seven limbs.

Without practicing asana it was hard for me to be still. Without practicing asana I couldn’t work out that excess and anxious energy to focus on my many tasks at hand. Without the asana I didn’t fully catch my breath or know where it was. Without asana my eating disorder thoughts began to arise because I wasn’t “working out”, “moving my body” enough to eat (even though I was dancing up a storm). Then there was myyoga-1146277_1920 physical body…it hurt. My hips were always stiff which interfered with my dancing. My knee pain was worse. The un-rounding of the shoulders I’ve been working on and opening the thoracic spine work started to go away.  My back was achy and not mobile, which again impairs dance performance. Everything sucked!

I didn’t want life to suck. I didn’t want my body suck. My dancing sure as hell couldn’t suck and neither could my new blog! So I made sure I put asana back in forefront of my day to day happenings. I woke up earlier. I did small sessions of yoga throughout the day. On the weekends I did restorative yoga. If I had five extra minutes I was in a yoga pose, be it a down dog or splaying on my new yoga wheel. And guess what? This ebbing and flowing river that was May began to be calm, or maybe I was just steadier. All because of my asana practice!

How does your asana practice influence your life? What do you notice if you don’t practice enough of the physical yoga? Can you practice too much physical yoga? Now onto June! Keep swimming in the yoga waters…

 

 

When the Yoga Works

I have been practicing yoga for sometime but have really prescribed to it over the past few years and more so lately because I am a yoga teacher! So I really have to live up to the yoga hype right? Actually, I don’t have to live up to the “yoga teacher” hype but it does help me to be more aware of yoga practices, how to live more yogiclly, and to practice what I preach (which is so much easier said than done!). My biggest challenge in the realm of yoga and recovery life is that of being meditative.

Meditation is not what most people think, thinking of nothing. Meditation is developing a mindful attention to one thing at a time and giving all your energy and focus on that one thing. My meditation practice isn’t sitting there in lotus with my malas smelling lavender essential oil and chanting Ohm. In fact, my meditation is practice is anytime I can just be still and focus on one thing, usually it is a chore/task/yoga pose. My meditation practice has stepped up since yoga teacher training, before then it was non-existent. In my teacher training we were required to establish a meditation practice and journal it. I went from zero minutes all the way to seven minutes in the course of eight months. I went from manic monkey mind to just monkey mind. I went from unmindful and hustle bustle to a more mindful hustle and bustle. Sometimes I never really notice how far I have come until someone points it out or I am in a situation where normally I’d be a walking ball of stress and anxiety and I am surprisingly clam. Like a magically fountain spring in the holler calm. Nothing showed me this more than my recent trip to the allergist.

I went to the allergist to get my food allergy panel retested because it’s been a while and it needed a check up. If you haven’t experienced an allergy than you a lucky duck. Allergy panels suck. You  lay on your belly and they prick your skin. If that isn’t bad enough they begin to fill the little pricks with possible allergens. Right as those allergens hit the pricks your skin goes on fire if an allergen is present. Then you have to lay there for fifteen to twenty minutes. No music, no TV, no human interaction. Just you and the burning, itching, kerosene soaked fueled fire, that is on your back. You can’t scratch it. You can’t move. All you can do is lay there and breathe. Breathe. All I did was breathe. I practiced my breath counting exercise (my favorite pranayama, count inhales and make the exhales the same length). 1,2,3,4,5,6, in and out 1,2,3,4,5,6. I began to feel the groundedness of laying on my belly. I began to close the eyes and imagine my breath filling up my body, just like I tell my students. I kept counting. 1,2,3,4,5,6, in and  out 1,2,3,4,5,6. When my mind would wonder or think of something else I would acknowledge it and go back to counting. 1,2,3,4,5,6, in and out 1,2,3,4,5,6. I didn’t feel my back burn. I didn’t feel the itching. I lost track of time. I almost feel asleep (but that could’ve been because it was 8 am). Before I knew it the alarm went off and it was over. They counted my results and we discussed my test. After I left the allergist office I realized that yoga works. I was in a situation where I normally am unhappy, irritated, and dread. But I didn’t really notice much of anything. I barely felt any itching. I just accepted the moment.

Yoga works when you want it to. All you have to do is surrender to it and just do it! Just do yoga. Breathe in. Breathe out. 1,2,3,4,5,6.

Ms. Magenta

So each month I have a newsletter and I write an intention. My intentions are similar to a meditation, just a little nugget of wisdom and something to think about for the month. It is such a joy and pleasure to write these intentions. While I hope people are inspired by them, it is not the reason I write them. I write them from my own experience and from the heart. I feel as if I need to write and share a part of me with them, it is like a way I blog when I am not blogging. My blog is the same way. I don’t do this for the praise and comments (though it is nice), I do it because it is a way for me to heal and show others that a new life is possible. I like to view intention/meditation writing and blogging as another aspect of my yoga practice (asana/posture is only one of 8 limbs). I wrote this for my October  newsletter and it is a favorite of mine. Why? Because it involves a quote from The Golden Girls and I have always wanted to write something based on the quote. So here we go…thank you Blanche Deveroux.

~~~

Do you ever have days that you are so overwhelmed that it is a miracle that you were able to just take a shower or even eat? How about days that are so chaotic that all you can do is breathe and not know what to do? What about days where you aren’t sad/blue, or angry/red, or scared…you don’t know how you feel. You just have something over you. Maybe it is a cloud. Maybe it is something else. Who knows? Blanche Devereaux does, she calls it Magenta. In one episode she says, “Magenta, that’s what I call it when I get that way – all kinds of feelings tumbling all over themselves. Well, you know you are not quite blue, because you’re not really sad. And although you are a little bit jealous, you wouldn’t say you are green with envy. Every now and then you realize you are kinda scared, but you’d hardly call yourself yellow. I hate that feeling. I just hate it. And I hate the color magenta. That’s why I named it that.”

I have lots of magenta days (but I happen to love the color magenta actually). There are days where just getting out of bed and eating is great. Then there are days where I am having a great day but something lingers, I can’t get fully happy. Hello, there Ms. Magenta. When Ms. Magenta appears in my life, I know I have two options: 1) Let Ms. Magenta in for tea and cakes, have a party or 2) Acknowledge her, and keep pushing on with a positive attitude. These two choices can have the following results 1) Ms. Magenta takes over, and suddenly I am blue and black or 2) She eventually goes away and I can see all that today has to offer.

Our yoga practice can help us keep Ms. Magenta away or politely tell her we are not home/busy/not taking appointments. How? by continually practicing two elements of yoga:  santosa (contentment) and svadhyaya (self study). By practicing contentment, we are always telling ourselves that what we have is enough. We are enough. Our life is enough. Everything we have is enough and that there is joy and peace within that. When we practice self study, we go within. I like to compare it to taking inventory. We are always in touch with our faults and how to make them better. We continually learn more about ourselves and the world around us. When we are more content with our life and learn about others, or things that will make us better, our days are brighter. Maybe even white. Seeing life as a gift. Joy, peace and love gives us a rainbow of colors that can give us hope. It may give someone else hope who sees you from afar.
So can you tell Ms. Magenta that you aren’t taking appointments this month?

~~~

My other favorite quote…Us Southern Belles do know a thing or two about battin’ eyelashes and making men drool.

fce15982d47f190cfee6c3601f5db431.jpg

InstaED

I have recently became a part of the Instagram world. At first I joined reluctantly, I am not a big social media fan. I am content with a Facebook (sometimes) and an email. When I made the decision to become a “big girl” and more business oriented I made an Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. I actually enjoy Instagram. Who would have thought? It is nice to just post pictures. No drama, no political opinions, just people posting pictures of their dogs, dancing, yoga, and other oddities of their/your daily life. Fantastic! I got down with that. It then occurred to me that as a yoga professional, while not a rule but it seems to be understated, “yoga selfies” are to be part of your account….really? I thought I was doing good just to post fun yoga philosophy and positivity quotes with my kombucha.

The whole “yoga selfie” movement is one I struggle with daily. I look over my Insta feed and I see all these amazing poses. These thin, toned, beautiful yogini’s-wearing next to nothing- or strong, muscular, yogi’s doing insane arm balances (hello eight-angle pose, and pincha on your elbows, and other poses that make me scratch my head). I begin to feel inadequate. I can’t do some of those poses. I don’t practice certain poses (if it feels bad I don’t do it). I don’t wear the fancy expensive yoga clothes, and I definitely don’t pose half clothed. On the flip side, I also follow lots of bigger yogini’s and I am amazed at what they do too. They can do postures I can’t do. Most of them are so confident with their bodies they don’t wear much clothing either. And again here I am just stuck in the middle like WTF?

I see the thin girls and feel bad about myself. I see the bigger women and feel bad about myself. The thin toned girls make me not want to eat. They make me want to work out more, maybe even push myself into those crazy poses that hurt me. The bigger women make me think “why can’t I feel that good about myself? They wear bathing suits why can’t I?”. Or I am little and I have no place because being naturally petite lumps me into the thin privilege realm. I CAN’T WIN. Can we also talk about how ALL their selfies look amazing. Perfectly timed, gorgeous sunsets and sunrises, hair in all the right places, perfect angles. They even have the perfect yoga space in their house.

Melvin ( my ED for the new readers), speaks to me all the time. Even subconsciously. It all starts with the long gaze and intense study of the pictures. Then the thoughts come. Then comes his greatest tool, self-pity and self-loathing. His words of “you aren’t worthy”, “you are not gonna inspire anyone”, “how can you teach yoga when you don’t look like that?”, “you can’t do that posture or look good on Instagram and that is why no one comes to your studio” etc…I begin to believe. I begin to contemplate not eating. I begin to contemplate over exercising. My depression and anxiety kick in. The out of control feeling begins sets in like when I am doing Pilates Roll-Overs on the Reformer. So what do I do? I continue with my yoga selfies because that is what I am suppose to do as a yoga professional…

My pictures and videos are all wonky. You can definitely tell I can take my own pictures and that I try really hard to get in the frame. Most of the time I make a fun yoga quip about the horrendousness that is my yoga selfie. I have said on more than one occasion, “taking yoga selfies is just like yoga practice, you got to practice it”. I try to present myself as real as possible. My videos always have my dog, I wear gym shorts, I am open about how I practice and what I don’t practice. I am known to use props (which I LOVE them, #propitup), that I don’t do much asana, and I spend more time on the other seven limbs. My flows aren’t perfect. I stumble. I am me. As much as I try to make them perfect, I always present them imperfectly. Why? Because it goes against Melvin. I think about those people who want imperfection, a yoga teacher who is like them. A teacher who doesn’t wear $100 yoga pants and parade around half naked (Even though I am overtly critical about what I look like *cough do I look thin enough cough*). A teacher who openly shares her yoga struggle because yoga reveals her pain and anger. A teacher who isn’t afraid to say “I don’t know” or recommend another teacher.  A teacher who doesn’t do hot yoga (even though all my classes are hot because you are in it), and loves teaching beginners. A teacher who lets you talk in class and makes jokes. A teacher who lets you be you because she is learning how to be herself.

*if you do want to follow me on Instagram and see not only my yoga selfie fails, but my incredibly cute puppy, #dogiwinston, follow me @downtownyogaknox. *

 

 

 

 

Yoga and Eating?—why yes and it is not what you think!

When I first got my yoga teacher training book list I saw a book I was scared to read/thought it would be triggering….Yoga of Eating by Charles Eisenstein. What I thought would be another book on how to eat like a yogi, or another “diet” book, I wanted to avoid it. I have a hard time reading anything that has to do with eating or “dieting” because of my own issues and how I am navigating my own recovery. I heard from my peers how great the book was, even from one who was in ED recovery too. So I decided to give it a whirl. Boy, was I surprised! This book is great for ED’s. It isn’t about what to eat, but how to eat better with where you are in your “diet” or lifestyle.Eisenstein breaks up the book into a variety of chapters addressing willpower, breath, personality and food, karma, fat, sugar, different kinds of diet, food preperation/cooking, and so much more. He dives deep into each subject and relates it all to his idea of Yoga of Eating. Take mindfulness and love of food and you got Yoga of Eating!

Yoga of Eating has definitely helped me navigate this world of ED recovery and how to approach my lifestyle with happiness and food appreciation. I believe that those of us in recovery and professionals who work with ED patients need to read this book. It can definitely help with perspective and break down some barriers ED sufferers have with food.

Here are some nuggets of food wisdom I found worth sharing:

*”Self-improveent is an appealing but malignant idea, a poignant rejection of our innate goodness. It means that we have accepted and internalized those messages of deficiency, laziness, and sin. Sometimes people take up a strict diet in hopes of therefore being good, deserving, or pure, thus establishing a tendency to withhold from themselves what they really want or need. Even without this tendency, because our conventional dietary recommendations are a confusing mish-mash of shoulds and shouldn’ts that seemingly have little to do with our desires as expressed in the body, a diet of self-improvement inevitably becomes a diet of self-denial. ” (12)

*”You are a symphony of vibrations that encompasses every thought you think, everything you do, everything you eat, everything you are.” (20)

*”The idea of deep breathing is not to impose upon the breath, not to direct it or control it in any way; rather it is the opposite–to liberate the breath, to free it of the constraints already upon it. That is why the foundation of deep breathing is what I call natural breathing…The same joy of liberation applies to diet as well, and equally it requires a release of physical habits and mental habits such as belief systems.” (32-33)

*”The central practice of the Yoga of Eating could not be simpler: to fully experience and enjoy each bite of food.” (41)

*”The benefits of the Yoga of Eating come not from self-denial, but from uninhibited enjoyment of and delight of food. nonetheless, the practice I have described may seem demanding and extreme. Meals, after all, are our main theater of social interaction. Who wants to spend every meal in silence? It would seem that the Yoga of Eating take all the fun out of eating…Why do we use meals for social interactions; for dates, for instance? One reason is that without distractions–such as a meal, a view, an activity, at least a cup of tea–interaction with other people gets uncomfortably intense. True intimacy develops under conditions of silence or joint creativity–and true intimacy is scary and uncomfortable. So, we use various means to keep intimacy at arm’s length, interposing small talk, glances away, facial masks, insincere remarks, little jokes changes of subject, sips of tea…or bites of food. Eating helps us maintain a comfortable distance from one another. Any time things get uncomfortable, you can escape into your food. Moreover, the acts and sensations of eating themselves dull one’s awareness of other presences.” (49)

*”The good news is that when you practice attentive eating, even once a day or less, you progressively {instill} a habit of complete chewing and assimilation of nutritive energies. Eating becomes so enjoyable that it calls to you through the conversations and through the distractions. It is not willpower that draws you back to the eating sensations, but rather the sheer pleasure of the sensations themselves, which begins to overwhelm the allure of distractions. Just as meditation brings serenity and mindfulness to all of life, so also does a daily  practice of attentive eating.” (52)

*”Do not be afraid to let go of a diet when it no longer serves you.” (61)

*”Let your {food choice} be okay, no matter how {shocking} it violates your knowledge of nutrition and good diet and, with full attention, enjoy what there is to enjoy.” (67) (very important for us with ED’s!!!!!)

*Neither does “health worship” reflect a sincere love of the body. there are people, most notably extreme adherents of various dietary philosophies or exercise regimens, who worship bodily health, seeing it as an indication of virtue, and disease as a sign of, or punishment for, some impurity of diet practice.  According to this calculus, the healthy zealot of our scenario is superior to the sick people of the world. He is better than they are. He has found the True Gospel, and will not hesitate to prozelytize. Very often (as with anyone who clings to pride) the result is humiliation–and what could be more humiliating to the health zealot than a serious illness? But even if the health-worshipper never gets sick, what good does his health do? The body is our vehicle for living and acting in the world; it is meant to be used. There is more to health, to wholeness, than mere physical integrity. You have been incarnated as this body for a purpose, and to achieve it your body possesses tremendous strength, resilience, and resources.” (72)

*”Like a young child, your body loves you totally and instinctively. Like a faithful dog, it stays loyal even when you kick and abuse it.” (74)

*In regards to fasting…”It does no good to clean the body without doing any deeper spiritual work.” (80)

*”A healthy diet thus becomes a constant battle between or natural appetites and the received belief that fat is bad.” (89)

*”In Chinese the most common world for fat in describing a person, pang, is never used to describe fat, fei, piece of meat, and I’ve been told this is true in other languages as well.” (90)

* In regards to meat eating/veganism/vegetarianism…”In general, though, to sustain a state of being that is energetically involved in the world, and that is hale, hearty, and humorous, meat is necessary for most people…You may choose to ignore your body’s needs. That’s okay! If you have a physical need for meat but nobly chose a vegan diet out of compassion, that is fine–as long as you can accept with equanimity and without resentment the physical degeneration that may follow. I have known quite a few vegans who have developed some kind of chronic disease or degenerative physical condition…Physical degeneration is virtually assure if the motive for the diet is not entirely compassionate, but tainted with the kind of vanity–a factitious self-image of purity, superiority, or exculpation from the sins of industrial society. Self-righteousness and judgmentality indicate that vanity-love of an image, in this case the image of compassion–has supplanted compassion itself as the motive for eating a vegan diet…Of course there are people who thrive on a vegan diet–most often people who are well-nourished in the spirit, secure and generous, autonomous and nurturing of others. They do not take pride in their diet or derive self-esteem from it. They do not advertise it or urge it indiscriminately on on others; they seldom mention it. They are radiant people. But even these people usually do better with some amount of eggs, butter, milk, and cheese, unless they practice a very monastic lifestyle.” (99)

*”The Yoga of Eating is quite the opposite: that each is the ultimate authority on his or her bodily requirements, and that the body will reveal its requirements given sufficient attention and trust.” (100)

*”Closed off from the experience of sweetness in life, yet hungering for it to the depths of our souls, we turn to the imitation of this sweetness in sugary foods. Sugar does nothing to allay the essential longing, though; at most it temporarily distracts our attention from the soul’s craving for sweetness.” (104)

*”Perhaps sweet foods are here to remind us and reaffirm that yes, life is sweet.” (106)

*”For yoga means union, and the Yoga of Eating extends beyond bodily integrity to encompass every aspect of our individual and collective lives.” (130)

*”Thus the fundamental method and practice of the Yoga of Eating is to listen to your body-soul, trusting the tools of taste, smell, and intuition, not imposing any specific expectations, not expecting any specific results. The results will come themselves. Meanwhile, enjoy the delights so freely available from food, a gift that never ends.” (145)

one-meal

Yamas, Niyamas, and the 12 Steps

For yoga teacher training we had to write a research paper. I really wanted my paper to be a reflection of what myself and where I want to take yoga. I want to take yoga in the theraupetic route, helping those with ED’s, mental illness, and other addictions overcome their mountain. As we studied two of the eight limbs of yoga: yamas and niyamas, I realized how similar they are to the 12 Steps. I use the 12 Steps as much as I can and I was starting to incorporate the yamas and niyamas in my life, I realized that they can be a great tool for those in recovery. This is how I got the idea for my research paper. My paper is a brief overview of a bigger topic and hopefully one day I can dive deeper and expand on this topic.

~~~~

“To the pure of heart comes also a quiet spirit, one-pointed thought, the victory over sensuality, and fitness to behold the soul.” Yoga Sutras II.41

 

Patanjali encompassed the essence of self-realization, self discovery, and the journey of a recovered life in this sutra. That particular sutra can be about embarking on the yoga journey or a journey of a recovered life from codependency, eating disorders, addictions, or unhealthy behaviors. Yoga can be used in combination with the 12 Steps to help a person who is recovery to become the best version of themselves. Though some people may think that the 12 Steps are unrelated to yoga, they would think otherwise after reviewing the two limbs of yoga outlined by Patanjali: the Yamas (moral disciplines) and Niyamas (moral guidelines). Even after review, the similarities between the yamas and niyamas and the 12 steps are apparent. The two limbs and the 12 Steps can help complement each other and together help an individual on their recovery journey.

The 12 Steps were written by Bill Wilson, a prominent businessman and alcoholic, who also founded Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930s. In 1938, his teachings and the 12 Steps were published in what is known as the Big Book (www.12step.com). The steps are faith based, meaning that they use spiritual concepts and the surrender of the participant to a power. Each step is a continuation of the next, they must be completed in order to be effective. When one begins they start with the first step, admitting they are powerless over their addiction or affliction. From there they go on through the following:

2)a power great than us can restore us, 3)we made a decision to turn our will and lives over to God as we understand him, 4) we made a fearless moral inventory, 5)we admitted to God and another our wrongdoings, 6)we’re entirely ready to have God remove these defects, 7)we asked God to remove them, 8)we made a list of all persons harmed, 9)we made direct amends with those we hurt, unless it would cause direct harm, 10) we continue to take personal inventory, and when we are wrong we admit it, 11)through prayer and meditation we come closer to God, 12)having been enlightened by these steps we are to carry this out to others. (Anonymous)

The yamas and niyamas are two parts of the eight limbs of yoga outlined by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. When one is on the yogic path these are observances and guidelines that yogi’s or yogini’s abide by. The yamas are known as moral disciplines. They are: ahimsa-non harming, satya-truth, asteya-non-stealing, brahmacharya-purity, and aparigraha-non covetedness/non hoarding/detachment. After that there are the niyamas, moral guidelines. They are: saucha-cleanliness, santosa-contentment, tapas-zeal/passion, svadhyaya-self study, and Isvara Pranidhana-dedication to the Lord through actions (Gates, 2002) (Iyengar, 1976).

As a person delves deeper into the meanings of both the 12 Steps and the first two limbs of yoga begin to notice the similarities. According to Kyczy Hwk, the 12 Steps, yamas, and niyamas provide ways to help with recovery from a variety of addictions with the 12 Steps being a more spiritual practice while the yamas and niyamas and yoga are more of a physical practice (Hawk).When a person on a recovery journey practice the yamas and niyamas they can better understand the Steps because they all have “a spiritual union with ones higher power” (Hawk). Some of the 12 Steps have more than one yama or niyama to go with it while some only have one. There are also some aspects of the first two limbs of yoga that are overarching concepts in the 12 Steps.

The first step has multiple niyamas that are related. Rolf Gates in his book, Meditations from the Mat, says it best, “We can count on the new and the unfamiliar to be awkward. But the awkwardness of that first step is no reason for us to deny ourselves the opportunity to have balance in a given area of our lives. We will have the degree of grace in our lives that we permit ourselves to have”   (Gates, 59). With that grace and the help of their higher power, the participant can then work on certain aspects of aparigraha and saucha. Aparigraha is “about the end of all attachment: letting go of our fears, letting go of our desires, becoming free” (Gates,67), which is an essence of Step 1. Saucha has similarities to Step 1 because of the crazy talk, insanity that is in his or her lives before that first step. Step 2 and 3 could also have some similarities with aparigraha and saucha as well because he or she is letting go of what doesn’t serve them, their addiction of dysfunction, to become free.

Step Four, making a fearless moral inventory, has similarities to asteya and the whole aspect of yoga. When the person on the recovery journey sits down to take their inventory they cover all wrongdoings and “defects of character” (Anonymous). This is something that is constantly done time and time again in the recovered life. Without taking regular inventory the recovered cannot stay recovered and progress in their life and spiritual walk with their higher power. When a yogi or yogini practices asteya they are paying “closer attention to what [they] do, and to put [their] faith in [their] ability to heal” (Gates,46) which is their version of making their own personal inventory.

Step 5 is all about admitting. He or she admits to God, themselves, and someone else (usually in AA it is a sponsor) all their wrongdoings and insight collected from their Step 4 inventory. Satya is the yama that has similarities to Step 5. As Rolf Gates puts clearly in Meditations from the Mat satya is “letting go of pretense and telling the truth about ourselves to another human being” (pg 31); Step 5 and satya is all about speaking truthfully and living that truth.

The next steps that are similar with one or two of the first limbs of yoga are Step 8 and 9. They are about making contact with people the individual has harmed and make direct amends with them. Here is another aspect of aparigraha at work because the individual is making a list of resentments and letting them go. Satya also makes another appearance here because satya is all about truth and the individual is speaking truth to those they have hurt.

After that comes Step 11 where the individual seeks conscious contact with God/higher power to help with their daily life and to better understand God through prayer and meditation. This has similarities to brahmacharya and self study. On the yogic path one practices brahmacharya or purity as a way to keep themselves close to God. In the 12 Steps the individual practices the same and keeps themselves pure by repentance, praying, and working to get their disease under control. As it is stated in Meditations from the Mat, “prayer enables us to tap into the healing power of the universe” (Gates, pg 52).

Lastly is Step 12, where he or she takes what she learns and shares it. In some 12 Step groups they will use the term spiritual awakening to showcase the life changing they undergo. Tapas and santosha are the two niyamas that work with Step 12. Tapas, or burning passion, relates to Step 12 because it is an “enthusiasm for health” (Gates) and it is all about inquiry. Being passionate to inquire about themselves which is the overarching idea of the 12 Steps; to be constantly evaluating your life, what the individual is doing in order to be the best person they can be in keeping the addiction or disease under control. As Gates states,

“Tapas is the spirit of inquiry; it is about having the heart of an explorer. It is the willingness to work hard in practice, the desire to know oneself, the will to be honest. But all of these virtues are predicted on a genuine desire for spiritual health. This desire will give us consistency. We will have good days and bad days, days when the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and days when the opposite is the case. Years of consistent practice are not built on rigid self-discipline; they are built on the desire to know more.” (Gates, 103)

Santosa is similar to Step 12 because santosa is an alternate way of approaching life, it is a different way to view life. The 12 Steps, just like the yamas and niyamas are about ways to approach different aspects of life, be it a recovered life or not.

In conclusion, there are many similarities between the 12 Steps and the yamas and niyamas of yoga. All three help individuals live a better life and give each individual a moral guidebook and road map to navigate life. With an understanding of the 12 Steps, yamas, and niyamas can help the individual on the road to recovery to better stay on that road and have a greater success rate and a lower chance of relapse.

 

Sources:

Light on Yoga, Iyengar

Meditations from the Mat, Rolf Gates

EDA 12 Steps

12steps.com

Yoga and the 12 Step Path, Hawk

Song of the Soul by Sankaracharya

As part of my RYT I was required to read Light on Yoga. At the end of the introduction there is a lovely poem/meditation. This song is all about the last limb of yoga, samadhi, or bliss/enlightenment. A goal of a yogi or yogini is to reach this blissful state. Here in samadhi there is nothing, just supreme happiness. We are not who we are, we are not what society says we are, we are not what are friends or family thinks we are. We are just happy and everything is lost. As we practice yoga throughout our lives we may only reach samadhi once, maybe twice, or maybe never. Just like a Christian strives to be like Christ and make it to heaven, samadhi is for the yogi/yogini.

~~~~

I am neither ego nor reason, I am neither mind nor thought,

I cannot be heard nor cast into words, nor by smell nor sight ever caught:

In light and wind I am not found, nor yet in earth and sky–

Consciousness and joy incarnate, Bliss of the Blissful am I.

 

I have no name, I have no life, I breathe no vital air,

No elements have moulded me, no bodily sheath is my lair:

I have no speech, no hands and feet, nor means of evolution–

Consciousness and joy am I, and Bliss in dissolution.

 

I cast aside hatred and passion, I conquered delusion and greed;

No touch of pride caressed me, so envy never did breed:

Beyond all faiths, past reach of wealth, past freedom, past desire,

Consciousness and joy am I, and Bliss is my attire.

 

Virtue and vice, or pleasure and pain are not my heritage,

Nor sacred texts, nor offerings, nor prayer, nor pilgrimage:

I am neither food, nor eating, nor yet the eater am I–

Consciousness and joy incarnate, Bliss of the Blissful and I.

 

I have no misgiving of death, no chasms of race divide me,

No parent ever called me child, no bond of birth ever tied me:

I am neither disciple nor master, I have no k in, no friend–

Consciousness and joy am I, and merging in Bliss is my end.

 

Neither knowable, knowledge, nor knower an I, formless is my form,

I dwell within the senses but they are not my home:

Ever serenely balanced, I am neither free nor bound–

Consciousness and joy am I, and Bliss is where I am found.