Housekeeping is good for you! In yoga philosophy the first of five practices that support our intention to live a spiritual life (niyamas) is purity (sauca). Even 2500 years ago when these practices were codified, our ancient yoga teachers knew something profound – when you take care of the world around you, keeping it clean and orderly, you are also taking care of your inner landscape.
Play is important. It is necessary. Play is a biological drive as critical to our health as sleep or food. Play can help us solve some of life’s toughest problems. When we take a break from a challenge to play, our minds continue to work on the problem. Play allows our minds to create new neural networks and to reconcile cognitive difficulties. Developing a habit of regular play can actually make all of life go better. The ability to work past difficulty or boredom to find the fun is a skill we all have to develop, but if we can embrace the notion that play is not always “all fun and games,” but can involve some discomfort and hard work, we will be better able to find a sense of play in everything we do – even our work. This perspective is a powerful way to make life more enjoyable.
In uncomfortable situations we often immediately weather a powerful sense of aversion. “I don’t want this!” “This isn’t what I planned!” “This isn’t fair!” Because we’ve been practicing, however, we know that this surge of emotion (often quite justified) will pass if we pause and take a few breaths. Once we settle down and accept that what is happening is, indeed, happening, we free ourselves to get creative. We set ourselves up to do things we never thought we would do, or never even dreamed we’d be able to do. We may even find ourselves feeling grateful for the chance to stretch and grow.
Resilience is a powerful quality in a crisis. Here are 5 science-backed ways to practice resilience on your yoga mat so you feel more resilient in life. 1) Change the narrative. 2) Face your fears. 3) Practice self-compassion. 4) Meditate. 5) Cultivate forgiveness.
It’s funny, isn’t it? While we're keeping ourselves apart from one another as never before, it’s also true that we have never been so very all in this together. It seems in this newly distant or separated world, connection is more important than ever. We humans are social creatures. Our need for togetherness is as fundamental to us as the need to move and to breathe. The ingenuity and creativity we’re showing as we reach out to connect during this crisis illustrates that drive. Let's keep it up folks! Stay in touch! Maybe one of the lingering effects of this virus will be a good one – we will all have been reminded of how much we love and need to be together.
The choice to practice social distancing is a lovely example of pure generosity. We are making a series of decisions, many that we may not like very much, to take care of people we do not or may not ever know. Each of us is choosing to make sacrifices for the greater good. For me, I am pausing the work I love to do. I am not seeing friends who light up my life. I am not seeing my parents or my two children who live in the city. Trivial, but still a blow, I am choosing not to go to my local pub to enjoy a craft beer. I am doing so not because I am afraid of contracting the virus. I am doing so because of the person who is in a high-risk demographic who may stay healthy because I didn’t touch as many door handles or parking meters or elevator buttons or whatever.
If you struggle with small choices such as “Do I want a salad or a sandwich for lunch?”, it is likely that you struggle even more with life's big decisions. Religious and spiritual disciplines teach that connecting with the desires of our hearts is key to understanding our “call” or “purpose in life” or even what makes us special and unique. Learning to tune into what we really want rather than what we think we should want helps us, in the end, to make the best choice of all - to be happy.
Self-study is part of yoga's moral foundation, yet many students feel like they don't have the time or energy to devote to more yoga. The good news is that self-study is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more we expose ourselves to new ideas, the more we will notice these ideas in all areas of our lives. Being a perpetual student enriches our life experiences on and off the mat.
Why not resolve to let something go this New Year's rather than taking something on? Something that is weighing you down, making you feel cramped or holding you back from chasing your dreams? It’s very human to hold on tight to the familiar. Join me in being brave. Remember that it’s only when we relax and open our tight, fist-like grip, that we have space in our hand (or heart, or life … ) to receive the gifts that Life has to offer. I wish you a happy and perhaps lighter new year!