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More than the Mat | Embracing the Yogic Lifestyle

Yoga is all around you. It’s in the words you use, the food you eat, how you treat all living things, and the way you tend to yourself.


A yogic lifestyle is about varying your views, habits, diet, thought patterns, and general ways of life, to align with the ethics and philosophies of yoga. Yogis make lifestyle choices that create Sattva, a state of calmness and inner peace. The word Sattva means honesty and is one of the three Gunas or “modes of existence” according to Samkhya and Hindu philosophy.


Mainstream images of yoga focus on Asana, the poses, and whilst this is a characteristic of the practice, it is not the only one.


Did you know that the poses were initially used to strengthen your body so you could sit in meditation for longer periods of time?





The longer you are able to meditate, the more connected you become, to yourself and the world around you. The more connected you are, the more likely you are to treat yourself and the world with love and compassion.

I know, it sounds so easy when you read it like this, and I promise it is. Let’s see how, with some small steps, you can embrace a more yogic lifestyle.


How Can You Apply The Yogic Lifestyle?


Putting this lifestyle into practice does not have to be an all or nothing situation. The modern world has us sucked into an endless cycle of information overload and instant gratification.

This could leave you feeling over-stimulated and impatient. This is the current state of modern living for the majority of the population. It’s no wonder that the default mode is to want things immediately and to lose interest if that is not the case.


"The Yogic lifestyle is like a journey with no destination, a continuous journey."



The Yogic lifestyle is like a journey with no destination, a continuous journey. You will forever get to learn and understand more about yourself. Every step will be fascinating, scary, tiring, joyful and insightful, as you unravel and unlearn a lifetime of habits and tendencies.

This is not to say that your existing habits are bad. What will come to the surface is motivation to do what feels good for you. The negative features of your life will become very clear.

You can take small steps towards this lifestyle, in a way that feels right for you, and that align with your values.

You might find that some aspects fall into place and others might be a bit more challenging. Your intention is the only thing that matters.


Start by asking yourself this question:

“What do I need right now?”


Don’t think about the answer too much. Allow whatever comes to mind first to arise. You will come back to this question time and time again, and each time the answer will be different. Allow the natural, un-edited answer to be your guide on what comes next.


How to Live a Yogic Lifestyle | The Basics


Express Contentment


I’m sure that you're tired of hearing people say “be grateful for XYZ”. Sometimes it feels like an easy way to bypass a difficult or uncomfortable situation. Could you view this in another light?

There is a beautiful Sanskrit word, “Santosha” translated as contentment.

Santosha says: “Understand and accept your current reality for what it is, break attachment to the material world and seek happiness internally. It’s impossible for one who is dissatisfied with oneself or with anything else in life to realise their higher consciousness”.


Santosha is one of the Niyamas (self-observances). The Niyamas are the second element of Patanjalis 8 Limb Path, which sets the foundation for yogic philosophy and lifestyle.




If you would like to read more about the 8 Limb Path check out one of my previous blog posts here.

Consider the last time that you felt true contentment. What did that feel like in your body? Mind? Soul?

That is the feeling of Santosha. Being content with what you have, where you are, who you are, whom you have in your life, and whatever you have achieved.


The idea behind contentment is to not pursue more than what you have. Now this doesn’t mean you can never chase your dreams. This is more about reflecting on where you are, instead of bypassing everything for the hope of something that might or might not materialise in the future.

Santosha in practice

Use the 14-day rule when shopping. When you find an item that you want, add it to your online cart and leave it there for 14 days. If after 14 days you still want or even remember it, buy it.




By taking time to pause before you buy something, you give yourself the opportunity to understand why you want the item. Is it because you want or need it, or are you looking for a temporary fix of contentment? This is one way to embracing the yogic lifestyle, by focusing your attention on what giving your energy to things that bring you joy.

Reflection


Is there an area in your life that causes you suffering?

Instead of resisting it, what can you do to find more ease and contentment in that area?

Dharana | Focus and Attention


You might have heard the saying “where your attention goes energy flows”. I’m sure you’ve had one of those days, where you wake up in a bad mood and the rest of your day goes downhill. What if you could interrupt that energy by redirecting your attention?


Dharana is the practice of concentrating on a particular subject.





A great way to set yourself up for meditation is through Dharana, by focusing your attention on one phrase, focal point, sensation, etc.

Dharana in practice


Focus on your sense of touch:

  • sit on a chair

  • your back, seat, and feet supported

  • set a timer for 2 minutes

  • fix your gaze or close your eyes

  • focus on all the parts of your body that are supported and notice the connection of these body parts to the surface


Dharana is a precursor to meditation, and mediation is easier than you think… I wrote a blog all about it, check it out here.

Ahimsa | kindness to all living things including yourself

Ahimsa says: “Be compassionate to all living things. We should strive to replace harmful thoughts, words and actions with loving ones.”

The first element of Patanjali’s 8 Limb Path is the Yamas (social ethics). The foundation of this element is set on Ahimsa.

Ahimsa encourages you to focus on healing the hurt that already exists. Ahimsa acknowledges that everything has consciousness and should be treated with kindness and compassion.





Even though all living beings seem to be different, in their essence they are all the same.

Ahimsa in practice

  • Change your internal dialogue

Notice how you talk to yourself. If you catch yourself in a negative thought pattern switch the narrative to something positive. Humans have more than 6000 thoughts per day so it would be impossible for you to notice every thought.


Aim to catch a few of the negative ones and check-in with how you feel as you become aware of them. Instead choose to think of something good about yourself, and with time, this will become an ongoing habit.


  • Negative thought patterns towards another person

Catch yourself doing this and immediately think of 3 positive things about that person. Notice how you feel now.

  • Implement a plant-based/vegetarian diet

When you consume animal products you also consume what that animal felt up to the point that they died. That becomes a part of you. In most cases, these animals are taken from their families and killed in unnatural and devastating ways.


This doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach; you could simply start by not eating meat for 1 meal a week, and then one day, and slowly build on that. Notice how different you feel on all levels, physical, emotional and mental.


  • Be good to your planet.

Live as environmentally friendly as possible. Walk instead of taking your car. Keep a reusable bag with you and reuse containers. Support local businesses, and be conscious of the footprint you leave.




Reflection


Is there a person or situation that could assist you in your practice of Ahimsa?


Is there someone whom you have treated unkindly or who has treated you unkindly? If so, could they be soothed by an offering?


Swadhyaya | Self study


Swadhyaya means closing your eyes and observing one’s own self. Swadhyaya guides you to know yourself through outward observation and inner reflection.

If you seek knowledge on an aspect of your human experience, you might go to an expert in that field. If for example you want to know more about your eyes, you will consult an Optometrist.


When it comes to getting to know you it gets a little trickier. You are the only expert on yourself but it can sometimes be uncomfortable to study yourself.


Swadhyaya in practice


During your yoga practice observe the nature of your thoughts. Are they kind and compassionate or do you see yourself through a more critical lens? Practice Ahimsa (kindness and compassion) as you practice Swadhyaya.





Reflection


We tend to respect book learning in our modern age, filling our minds with a variety of information. Did you know that if you read an entire Sunday Times newspaper that you would have consumed more information in one sitting than the average person 100 years ago read during their entire lifetime?


What if you applied that same curiosity and energy to getting to know yourself?

Aparigraha | Ackno,wledge Abundance

Traditionally, this element is referred to as non-possessiveness or non-greediness. Under this characteristic you learn to appreciate what you have. To share and not hoard or get attached to what you most desire in life. Keeping only those objects that are essential for living.




In todays world you enjoy plenty of luxuries; central heating, air-conditioning, and a simple button that you press to cook your food. Sometimes these life luxuries are taken for granted.

The mere thought of a limit on an everyday resource initiates fear. Think about when the pandemic hit, and everyone thought that we'd run out of toilet paper. An everyday resource was now threatened. What did everyone do? They bought as much toilet paper as possible with no consideration for the next person. What initiated this? Fear.


If you are able to live within your means and use the expression “I have enough” abundance will flow in your direction.

Aparigraha in practice


  • Create space for the new

Clean a few items from a drawer or a wardrobe and give the contents to a worthy person or charity. An empty place allows for new things to fill your life.


Move this same idea to your diary. Leave some time each week for the unexpected to happen. Invite surprise blessings to visit you.

  • Serve your community

Plan to do something to serve your community or a community close to your heart. Notice any mental or emotional resistance. Note how you feel after the experience.


Do you notice a sense of gratitude? Perhaps so much so, that you may want to make this kind of Seva (selfless service) a regular event in your life?


Reflection


Reflect on your life. What type of people or possessions do you surround yourself with?

Do they feed your soul or your ego?


Do they energise or deplete you?



My Secrets to Embracing a Yogic Lifestyle

The yogic lifestyle has helped me feel more connected to myself than ever. Whilst my journey is ever-growing and evolving, here are some things that I practice that you can start now.

These foundations help me to deal with whatever life throws my way and to live a more balanced life. I can always feel when I am out of balance now because of this deeper connection to self.

Intuition


Start listening to that inner voice more. That is your intuition, and it knows what is best for you, even when you resist it.


Build on your awareness


Treat yourself the way that you would treat a loved one. Catch yourself in negative thought loops. Even something as simple as berating yourself for making a mistake.


Heightened awareness of your internal nature helps you connect with how situations, people, and environments make you feel. In the long run, this will enable you to surround yourself with what feels healthy for you.


Be Kind


To yourself and all living things. Choose to speak to yourself and others with kind words. Show yourself and all living things compassion…always!

When you go to kill that spider in your bathroom, consider if there is a way that you can remove it from your home whilst preserving its life.

Allow yourself to feel


You might suppress tears, anger, joy, or insecurity for any number of reasons. Whatever your reason is, allow yourself to feel whatever you need to feel. Take 3 deep breathes, notice and be with it.


This can get uncomfortable, but even a few minutes of this practice can help to deepen self-connection.


So to summarise, these are the 5 elements of the yogic lifestyle that I practice right now:

These are only a few characteristics of the Yogic lifestyle that I practice. I hope that this blog has inspired you to do what’s best for you and take some time for yourself.

Drop a comment below if you have any questions or comments on this blog

Love and Light

Eliza

xxxx


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