If you follow us on the socials you’d know that I’ve started my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training at Essence of Living! You’d also know that I’m freaking love love loving it. It’s a 10-week course over the weekends (10 hours each day) which is awesome because at this stage in our biz it would have been impossible slash inconvenient for me to go overseas and do some intensive 4 week everyday yoga training thing. AND because I’ve been practising at Essence of Living for over a year now, I REAAAALLLLY wanted to do my training with Michelle (founder of Essence of Living, we interview her here!).
Bear with me as I ramble for just a second (hey, at least I pre-warned you!). Have you ever studied something that you ACTUALLY enjoy? Like when you’re learning and listening, you sit there hanging on every word? Writing down notes that you probably will re-read and re-read again? Well, I haven’t, until now. And oh my freaking gosh it is the best thing ever to actually want to learn the stuff you’re learning, rather than looking at my phone every 5 minutes wondering when the next coffee or food break is. I was always a good student but I couldn’t WAIT to get out the door. Now… I just want to stay in the ‘classroom’ (studio) longer, learn more, practise more, reflect more, question more.
I’m almost half-way through the course and every weekend my mind has been filled with philosophy and new ideas. Though the best thing that I’ve realised is that yoga is SO. MUCH. MORE than doing a handstand or some other Instagram-impressive pose. Except… how exciting I can almost handstand! Progress yah!
UPDATE: since this post, years of teaching at Essence of Living, more teacher training (500 hours PLUS!) I’ve created the MerryBody Yoga Teacher Training. Learn more here!
Ok, now I share.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the 8 limb path of yoga is called Ashtanga. Basically, it outlines 8 steps to self-realisation or reaching your pure divine or really whatever you wanna call it. They are ways to live a meaningful, on-purpose life.
Yama. Niyama. Asana. Pranayama. Pratyahara. Dharana. Dyana. Samadhi.
I’m going to share my take on the first 2 limbs, Yama and Niyama, which have 5 aspects each within them. Basically, it’s about being a kind, compassionate, generous human… but when you break them down and focus on each, I reckon it allows you to become more aware of who you truly are. And isn’t that what life is about? Being your true self 100%? Heck yeah! We podcast about that here!
Yama: the 5 yamas provide guidelines on how we act and our relationships externally to others and the world.
Yes it’s the whole don’t kick, punch, fight etc, that’s kind of a ‘duh’ moment for us all. But what about your words? Your interactions? How you close the door? Ahimsa is more about choosing to be kind. Because, yes you can practice non-violence but going the next step would be practising kindness. It’s so cool to be kind.
How good does it feel to be truthful? 100% honest. 100% you. Act with 100% integrity to your values and beliefs. Truthfulness is about acting in congruence to your authentic self. It’s saying yes when you mean yes, and no when you mean no. BUUUUT Ahimsa comes before Satya. So if being truthful means causing violence or pain or sadness… then maybe you need to think twice about whether your honesty is actually necessary or worth it. Like, telling someone what you think is wrong about THEM is not bringing kindness to the world.
Not stealing objects (duh, again), but also not stealing others’ ideas or praise. Not stealing someone’s energy and most importantly, not stealing someone’s time. It’s also looking at where can you give praise? Where can you encourage someone? Where can you use someone else’s idea as inspiration and reference their amazing work?
Brahmacharya: sexual integrity
Brahmacharya means to ‘walk with god/the divine’ and if we lived way back when (and probably people still practice this) it would mean celibacy. But now it means sexual integrity. Experiencing one sexual partner at a time. Yep, no polygamy for me. I never really understood that anyway. I’m all for getting to know someone on a super connected level and experiencing epic lives together. Yay for epic lives!
The stuff that’s cluttering your home, is cluttering your mind. Do you need to keep it all? Do you need 10 1/4 measuring cups? (Haha no Merries, you don’t!). Do you need ALL your books still? Or can you pass them on? Can you give things away? Do you need 10 black dresses, or maybe just 1 really beautiful black dress? Your stuff that lives with you is very powerful. Choose your stuff wisely and do clean-outs regularly. It feels SO good to give stuff away.
Niyama: the 5 Niyamas are an extension to the first limb, the Yamas, but rather than looking externally, the Niyamas observe what’s going on inside the body, mind and spirit of the yogi.
Cleanliness, purification and detoxification. When looking at Saucha we ask, how can we be pure in our mind and our body? What are we feeding our bodies? What are we saying to ourselves? Where can we be more pure in our lives? Well one way to purify is with a serious backbend and thank you Tara for your adjustment! 😉
One of my favourite things that Michelle has shared during these past 4 weeks is “how you do one thing, is how you do everything.” And it’s keeping me on my toes, that’s for sure!
Contentment with where you are, who you are and what you have. The aim is to make peace with what is. In other words, complete unconditional acceptance. Last week I was practising Astanga yoga for 5 days straight. On the last day I wanted to try for a harder headstand pose. Even though I knew I was tired and I knew I’d never done it before I wanted to ‘get the pose’. I ended up hurting my neck (it’s all better now) and it made me wonder why did I feel like I needed more? Where else am I grasping for more? Where am I not practising contentment? Contentment is a very freeing way of life. I like it.
What do you love so much that you are 100% devoted to, no matter what. Tapas can also be referred to as discipline but I like the word devotion better. As I think of LOVE when I think of devotion. No matter what, because of your devotion you will continue on. Whether it be against the grain, whether you’re tired, whether you feel stuck, you are devoted, so you continue. And through that, you see growth and amazingness. It’s not about forcing yourself… it’s that you LOVE it so much that it’s a part of your life, just like you’re devoted to brushing your teeth. For me, Merrymakers is this. I LOVE everything about Merries and even though writing a blog post or recording a podcast can be tedious and take time… I do it because I LOVE helping people. I love sharing Merrymakers with the world. I love creating YUM recipes. I LOVE Instagramming.
This is a long one because I think it’s one of the most important.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra says: “Study thy self, discover the divine.” Svadhyaya is the study of self in alignment to the yoga principles. It is self-awareness. Self-discovery.
When you practice Svadhyaya it has the potential to create a deeper connection with yourself.
When you are curious and when you are questioning, you are practising Svadhyaya. It’s about bringing awareness to the way you say things, the way you do things, the way you feel, the way you think.
For me, a big one is my tonality and choice of words when I speak to Emma. I’m bringing huge self-awareness to this at the moment and choosing kindness above all to go along with my words. Even if I am frustrated. Svadhyaya then questions well why am I frustrated? How can I be more patient? It goes on and on! It’s pretty amazing when you start doing this.
When you explore yourself, your thoughts, your actions, your words what do you notice? Are they in alignment to who you truly are? If not, how can you shift your thoughts, actions and words to realign with kindness, generosity and abundance? How can you realign back to pure love. It is said that when you become self-aware this shifts and changes happen organically without force.
Isvara Pranidhana: surrender/let go
This one is easy to say (well kind of) but probably the one we need most practice with. Isvara Pranidhana is the surrender to the divine. It is ultimate trust and faith that all is well. That your life is on a path and every step you take, every encounter, every moment is as it should be. And even in the moments when you think the world is over, this is rock bottom, you have faith that it’s part of your journey, there’s a blessing or a lesson somewhere inside and the dots will eventually connect.
Woh! Essay! I told you I loved it! And now you know a little more about yoga… and how it truly, really, 100% is not just about the epic headstand 😉 but how it is small actions we can all take today to reach the higher self, the divine, pure love.
P.s if anyone is keen to do their Yoga Teacher Training… Essence of Living is epic, obviously hehe (and also, if you’re ever on the GC, let us know and we can go do yoga (or pilates!) together!).