The first Yoga teacher training I did changed my life in so many ways.
I learned so many things not only through study, but through practice.
One thing that really stuck with me was to keep a yamas journal everyday, which I still do periodically.
It still holds true for me that the most important thing about yoga is to practice it in daily life, the everyday things and keeping this journal brings me back to that reminder.
It brings me back to how I essentially want to live life.
Master Patanjali outlined in his yoga sutras the eight aspects of yoga, the eight limbs of yoga, of which the yamas are the first.
The first steps are always the hardest, which is why I find it so important and therapeutic to revisit them from time to time as part of my yoga practice.
The yamas are:
1. Ahimsa (or non-violence).
We immediately think that this means not harming others, which, of course, is very important, but it is equally important not to harm ourselves.
We are great at doing this with the way we speak to ourselves. It is also the practice of acting kindly and speaking kindly to others and our self.
2. Satya (or truthfulness).
This means to live with truth, in truth, without harming others.
What it means is that a person should think before speaking so as to consider how those words will affect the person.
Will it be positive or negative?
Sometimes it simply takes a slight restructuring of words to make the information easier for someone to swallow. Be kind in your words while speaking the truth.
This is truly a practice.
3. Asteya (or non-stealing).
This does not only mean material objects, but even more so the stealing of other people’s ideas to obtain some sort of power.
For example, taking credit for work done by a colleague to gain the upper hand in the work place.
It is the practice of giving credit where credit is due and honouring one’s own ideas and passions.
4. Bramacharya (or non-lust).
I like to use the word self-control with this one.
Self-control when it comes to sexual activity. This a loaded one for sure (excuse the pun), but it is about not being excessive.
For me it’s also about practicing respect for myself and partner when it comes to sexual activity.
5. Aparigraha (or non-possessiveness).
Possibly the most difficult in this day and age.
This is about living free from greed or taking only what is necessary. It is also about not using someone for personal gain or loneliness etc.
This one often calls for a clean out and donation of all those excess items in the wardrobe. Sometimes, it can even mean an evaluation of a relationship you might be in because of being afraid to be lonely.
How I do it.
I love old-fashioned journals like the Moleskine journals. I use one specifically for this purpose and draw a tree on every page.
I then fill up my tree with negative black dots when I feel like I haven’t honoured one of the yamas and a bright green dot for every time I speak kindly instead of harshly or act in a way that is not greedy or feeds the ego.
When I’ve had a particularly challenging day, I will write a short journal for that day so that I can see what I could have done better and to learn from that experience.
I find that when I bring my attention back to these things that I sometimes forget about in everyday crazy living and busyness, I find my happiness and peace again.
And I can live my yoga off the mat as well as on it.
Author: Susan McFadzean
Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Walt Stoneburner/Flickr