Ever feel anxiety that you’re not doing enough? In my first few months adapting to volunteer life teaching in Costa Rica, my host family’s most common words to me were, “tranquila,” or relax. In their eyes, I seemed to constantly be seeking something, so often doing and trying to get somewhere and get things done. I mentally kicked and screamed, resisting their slower pace of life that seemed to trust ambiguity and even embrace the unknown through the Costa Rican philosophy of pura vida, or “pure life,” meaning “it’s all good.”
Through plenty of alone time with my inner critic and daily yoga and journaling, I gradually realized that at the root of my relentless pulse to keep busy sat a deep feeling of unworthiness and constant need to feel more useful. Also, I longed for a sense of control to appease my fear and lack of trust in life and myself. Becoming aware of these root causes, I began to value the quality of presence over quantity of achievement.
I began slowly un-gripping life and letting it flow. Oh, is that what pura vida meant? My senses awakened more intently to the mesmerizing nature that I had been immersed in. I gave myself permission to play more and pursued a more balanced life of work, rest, play, creating, solitude and socializing. This space to breathe more deeply brought refreshing energy to the classes I taught and the relationships I cultivated, especially with myself. And now when I see old habits creeping back in, I turn to the introspective practices that grounded me in clarity.
Living in Balance is the focus of this Thursday’s Integrative Yoga Night. We’ll implement these introspective practices: slow the body down to shed layers of tension through Yin Yoga, breathe more deeply using yogic techniques, cultivate nonjudgmental awareness through guided meditation, trust our inner guidance through self-inquiry journaling and share insight and support through conversation. Use this nurturing space to redefine what balance in your life means to you.
Join us for this donation-based Zoom gathering on 1/28 @6-7pm PT.
Nina Arhipov began practicing yoga around 2015, almost dismissing it after her first try until she discovered Vinyasa Flow. Her love for movement contributes to her youthful energy and adventurous spirit. Learn more about the spirit behind this vibrant smile, by watching our interview below.
Connect with Nina in our weekly Zoom yoga classes or community events. Or, you just may spot her enjoying the views on her hike along Los Angeles' local trails.
Nina practices yoga overlooking Costa Rica's countryside during our retreat in 2019.
Whether you're new to yoga or have been practicing a while, the 8 Limbs of Yoga are the 8-fold path explained in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and combine to form a well-rounded practice for mind, body and spirit. Beginning January 4, 2021, I'll be adding to this article each week for a total of 16 weeks exploring these foundations. Consider joining our yoga community live online on Zoom for yoga classes that further this exploration through direct experience simultaneously.
An Introduction to the 1st Limb, the Yamas
There are 8 Limbs of Yoga and these are the aspects that make up the practice of yoga, which means union. The first limb, called the Yamas in Sanskrit, are a list of five ethical behaviors that guide our actions in the world to align with our yogic path to Self-realization, or uniting with our true nature, that of pure love.
The 1st Yama, Ahimsa (Nonviolence)
The first Yama is nonviolence, or ahimsa in Sanskrit. There are many ways we can consciously and unconsciously inflict pain and suffering on ourselves, others and our planet. To practice non-harm, I believe it’s essential to observe our thoughts, words and actions and the effects they have on ourselves and the world around us. What is the tone of your inner voice as you move about your day? How do you relate to the feelings and needs of others? How are your daily actions affecting the well being of your body, spirit, mind, household, loved ones, neighbors, communities, cities and all life around you? In our interconnectedness what you think, say and do matters and its energy ripples; Ahimsa is the practice of rippling kindness, compassion and love.
The Yoga Sutras state that as one fully embodies non-violence, their presence of peace emanates an energy field of peace around them, so that lower frequencies of hate, violence or destruction dissolve within that field. There is power in kindness!
The 2nd Yama, Satya (Truthfulness)
Our thoughts and words have creative power. When they are misaligned to what we do and say, we feel (and others may feel) the state of imbalance and confusion. Just as we consciously align our bodies in yoga poses, yoga includes aligning our minds, bodies and spirits so that our actions in our outer world match our inner intentions. Living with such clarity and integrity we can live wholeheartedly, expressing our truth with ahimsa.
The 3rd Yama, Asteya (Nonstealing)
The 3rd yama is asteya, non-stealing. When I think of the mindset that might motivate someone to steal an idea, an object, a relationship, someone’s time, natural resources or whatever it may be, I feel it boils down to a feeling of scarcity and undervaluing their own abilities and so-called possessions. To me, it seems they may not understand their own power to access their own creativity, abundance, uniqueness or resources. This may lead to competitiveness and even greed, and it’s based on illusions of the ego like, “There’s not enough for everyone” or “I’m not good enough.” Interestingly, as we adhere to non-harm (ahimsa) and truthfulness (satya), we release the need to steal what does not belong to us. Moreover, we can honor the balance of giving and receiving in our relationships when we connect to the truth that we are all part of a whole, like we’re ultimately on the same team. Thus, we realize that the harm we inflict or generosity we share towards another being is ultimately what we are doing to ourselves too.
In practicing asteya, here are some questions to reflect on:
The 4th Yama, Brahmacharya (Wise Use of Energy)
The 4th yama is brahmacharya, or wise use of energy. How do you practice moderation and balance in all areas of your life in order to harmonize with divine consciousness, consequently experiencing pure vitality? Interpreted by some to include celibacy, brahmacharya involves being mindful with how you spend your energy—your thoughts, time, attention, physical presence, emotions, finances and other resources—with the ultimate intent to align with infinite intelligence. It also includes providing your body with clean nourishment and sufficient rest and engaging in a balance of contemplative solitude and socializing and work and play. It’s being purposeful with how you harness, contain and expend your energy in light of the bigger picture of your spiritual journey. Consistent practice of daily pranayama (breathwork), asana (postures) and meditation set the stage for cultivating brahmacharya.
To be continued...
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