It was only about a year ago that I discovered there were 7 other limbs in yoga. I'd been taking class religiously in hot rooms for 3 years, and never had a clue that there were many other layers to this expansive practice.
A perfectionist to the Nth degree, yoga asana (practicing physical postures and a means to quiet the mind; moving meditation) offered a safe space for me to connect with my physical body, and allowed me a few moments each practice of complete serenity. Moments where I wasn't focused on my to-do list or all the many 'struggles' I'd accrued that'd keep me up at night.
Yoga, at first, is like an unopened flower, irresistible to a thirsty bee; we seek refuge in it's petals and try hard to get inside and drink up dew. As the sun rises, the petals begin to open, and we find ourselves baffled, as we'd only known the bud as it'd first presented itself. But with each minute, as it opens and shows more of itself, we realize how much more glorious it is than we'd originally anticipated.
Maybe that's a really silly analogy, but it makes sense to me. This practice keeps revealing its many facets to me. As each day goes on, and these mini-epiphanies continually pop up, it becomes easier to believe why this is a lifelong practice: which was incredibly daunting the first time I heard it (the perfectionist in me hated the idea of not mastering something in a short amount of time. At this point I'd still thought all I had to learn were the postures!). I'm curious to know whether most yogis experience this feeling when they discover that yoga is mean to be much more than a way to workout!
For me, this work creates imagery of a massively cyclical system in which we continue our lives while practicing various avenues/limbs of Yoga, and every so often we have to come back to the same ideas we thought we'd learned, but are able to see them in a different light, as time is continually passing and we find ourselves in a different space. A little confusing, but a steady evolution; I love it.
Taking up the work of the Self is truly a tree with the most abundant fruit. Bettering yourself benefits you as much as it benefits those who you come in contact with most; a companion, children, family, friends, coworkers. It's through this type of work that we're able to live as examples and discover ourselves daily.
I really feel as though I'm choosing to live in this Magical Plane of Existence that I don't even fully understand yet, but the mystery is so much of the fun. I feel safety, warmth and love. Lessons learned from past traumas, emotional setbacks, and heartbreaks (that lead to building walls I'd hoped would keep me from discomfort/mistrust), is a step away from fear and darkness. I'm able to slowly release them; they're not so scary and uncomfortable anymore. They don't hurt me, but gently kiss my forehead whispering that they presented themselves to make ME a stronger woman. Shifting my focus on this has had a radical impact on how I view life; from being a victim and having things done TO me; to believing that they're happening FOR me.
Discomfort can teach us so much.
Two limbs of Yoga are the Yamas and the Niyamas; each made up of 5 parts.
The 5 Yamas are self regulating behaviors that have to do with our interactions with others and the world. Those are:
Ahimsa : Nonviolence
Satya : Truthfulness
Asteya : Non-stealing
Brahmacharya : Non-excess
Aparigraha : Non-Possessiveness
The 5 Niyamas are personal practices that have to do with our inner world. Those are:
Saucha : Purity
Santosha : Contentment
Tapas : Self-discipline, training the senses
Svadhyaya : Self-study (inner exploration)
Ishvara Pranidhana : Surrender (to higher power, God, universe)
We talked a lot about 'Tapas' during my RPYT (Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher) training. Rooted in the Sanskrit, the word 'tap' translates to 'to give out warmth; to shine; to burn'. My teacher, Jane, would often talk to us about this 'fiery discipline', and encourage the moms when they'd hold a specific seated posture ("Goddess Arms" she calls them), with their arms outstretched for many minutes, and it'd start to burn. Introducing the idea that even in moments of burning or discomfort, to find the breathe that would calm you, and connect within.
"As hard as this may seem, motherhood is much harder." She'd explain that being able to utilize this idea may make everyday annoyances easier or less stressful.
This type of exploration and processing makes the various limbs of yoga very relatable and easier to adapt to everyday life, I feel. That's another reason I love this work, it's been around for centuries and is among the oldest of practices, yet as applicable as you want it to be!