Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Niyama 1 - Saucha

Back to the Yamas and Niyamas gang!

Whereas the five Yamas (covered here, here, here, here and here!) are focused more on how we react within the outer world, Niyamas bring it on home, dealing with how we act within our own inner world. The first of these is Saucha, which means cleanliness or purity.

When we think of cleanliness we tend to think of external things, such as tidiness or washing. Saucha encompasses this, but adds the idea of mental or internal cleanliness and clarity. Yogis think of the body as the keeper of the spirit or soul - so it makes sense to keep this vessel clean and healthy. The postures we do in class (asanas) are one method of doing this, as they circulate oxygen and lymphatic fluid which helps remove toxins and keep our bodies clean. Alongside this there are other methods such as Pranayama (yogic breath), kriyas (cleansing rituals) and practices such candle gazing meditation.

Saucha enables us to examine the quality of what we are putting into our bodies and minds. Is the food we are eating helping to keep our body pure and clean? Or is it full of chemicals, pesticides and ingredients created in a lab rather than in a garden? Do we maintain good sleeping patterns, keep our body healthy with exercise and avoid excessive consumption of alcohol or stimulants such as coffee (or worse!) Michael Pollan has some great simple rules for healthy living (including "Don't buy your food where you buy your gas" and "Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognise as food") but sums it up best with this one:"Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much"

When the body is clean and healthy we are better able to then focus on the real yoga - taming and controlling our wayward monkey minds. Our heads are generally filled with a constant chattering internal dialogue, pulling our attention in every direction and distracting us from experiencing (and enjoying!) the present moment. Yoga aims to tame this constant dissipation of thoughts, enabling us to achieve a clearer, calmer - and happier - state of mind.

By using the concentration and attention needed to fully participate in a yoga class we can bring this mental chatter back under control. An example of a tool we use in class to do this is 'drishti' or the single pointed focus which helps maintain our equilibrium during balancing poses. Drishti trains the mind to be able to hold a single thought or focus at a time, rather than allowing our thoughts to be scattered and distracted by the demands of unhelpful additional "chatter". A ridiculously difficult thing to do in today's modern world (damn you facebook/ twitter/ emails/ text messages etc etc!) Another one would be the inbuilt meditation that is our own breath. There is a reason I harp on about it in class you know :)

As we gain more control over our wayward minds we begin to notice  habits that no longer serve us. With our newfound focus we are easier able to identify and remove that which holds us back from being emotionally and physically healthy. We can practice keeping our minds clean from useless and repetitive thoughts - which only serve to take us out of the moment, and increase our worry and stress. By clearing the mind of this chatter and baggage we gain the clarity to make better decisions and choices; and can enjoy the freedom of living in a present uncluttered by negative thoughts from the past, or projected worries into the future. 

To bring more of the qualities of Saucha into your life, start by gently observing the quality of that which you allow to enter your mind and body. Think about the physical body, but also the mental and energetic one. Do you let negative or distracted thoughts constantly invade your thinking, making you stressed and unhappy? Do you engage in gossip or trash talk? How do you speak to others... and yourself? Is it with pure intention or do you allow criticism to creep into your words? 

Aim to start replacing toxic things (junk food, junk thoughts) with healthier, more sustaining alternatives. Watch where your mind takes you and practice bringing it back to a single point of focus without distractions - even when you're not in a yoga class. You don't need to be in tree pose to reap the benefits of a clear, focused mind!

Hopefully with a little effort and observation Saucha can bring a little more calm and clarity into our busy and cluttered modern lives... and minds. Let me know how you go Brogis :)


Some resources to help you practice Saucha:

Unfuck your habitat - "Terrifying motivation for lazy people with messy homes" (LOL)

10 Simple Ways to Unclutter your Mind 

You vs You - fascinating radiolab podcast on quitting bad habits, and battling ourselves to do so!

Michael Pollan's Food Rules - simple, easy to follow advice. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Broga!

There are a few schools of thought when it comes to music and yoga. Some teachers or lineages of yoga feel that music can be distracting and perhaps hold us back from achieving the enlightenment we may be seeking through our practice. And I totally get that. But when it comes to Broga I am fully in TEAM JAM.

Us Brogis are what is known in yogic terms as "householders" - which means we practice yoga, but have no desire to go live in a cave, monk style. Well, not yet anyways (although some days that does seem appealing... :P) We live in, and are of this modern world. Which includes some pretty neat things. Like... music!

Anything we can do to bring joy into our practice, to make it something we enjoy coming to is a major plus in my books. If you're anything like me, you probably listen to music all the time to get you in the mood to work, exercise, relax and erm... other things. Why not add yoga to that list?! 

Music is a great way to fire up a home practice that might have become a little stale or predictable, and to bring a bit of extra light and fun into our usual routine. One caution though: spontaneous dance break-outs on the mat can occur *breaks out the twerking*

Here are some great tracks I have been enjoying practising to of late. And remember Broga now has a spotify, so you can Broag along at home to your favourite tracks from class. 

The Weeknd / Enemy (Instrumental) 

Purity Ring / Obedear 

2 Cellos / Hurt

Beach House/ D.A.R.L.I.N.G

James Vincent McMorrow / Higher Love

Brian Eno / Deep Blue Day  

Ane Brun (feat Jose Gonzales) / Worship 

Flaming Lips/ All We Have is Now

Jonsi / Hengilas 

Grimes/ Dream Fortress 

Survivor / Eye of the Tiger

Any favourite tracks you like to pratice to Brogis? Suggestions welcome!


PS. Don't forget Saturday classes are still running at JStudios, North Fitzroy. Get your butt down here and join the broga gang!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Yama 5 - Apirigraha

The last in our series of Yamas is Apirigraha, which means "non-attachment", "non-hoarding" or "non-possessiveness". This is one of the hardest yamas to practice as attachment is a slippery devil! Also, in a way Apirigraha goes against everything we are encouraged to do, or are told is the key to 'happiness' in this modern consumerist world. So disentangling ourselves from the belief that happiness lies in buying more things, having more money, or owning a fancier phone can be a real challenge for us modern day brogis :)

Not only that, Apirigraha does not include only our relationship to material possessions (told you it was a slippery one) it also includes our attachment to ideas, relationships, people and beliefs (like the belief that a fancy phone does make you happy :P)

At the heart of Apirigraha is the notion of letting go of our feelings of not having enough and the need to "possess" more, enabling us to move from a state of grasping into one of gratitude and abundance.

Or, in the words of renowned philosophers Mick Jagger and Keith Richards...

"You can't always get what you want,
But if you try sometimes well you might find,
You get what you need"

"What you need" being a sense of gratitude and contentment with what is actually around you, not those things you don't have but you think you do "need" in order to be happy. Which is not to say we don't need certain things - of course shelter, food and comfort are important - as is having enough to be able to meet our own specific genuine needs. The act of practicing Apirigraha helps give us the discernment to figure out what these needs are; and to get rid of the superfluous desiring and "needing" that is actually taking us further away from what is truly important.

This quote from instantgoodkarma, has a beautiful explanation of the what some of those truly important things could be:

"Instead of focusing on things that can be lost we should focus our energy and our life on the things that cannot be lost. What cannot be lost, you ask? If your actions are from good intentions, if you act from love, if you always try to put good energy into the world, this is something that cannot be lost. The work you put into improving yourself, quieting your mind, learning how to behave in a moral and ethical manner, and learning how to act in accordance with your true inner self is something that can never be lost. Even the poorest person in the most difficult circumstance can still give a kind word, can show compassion, and can help others. These are the things that can never be taken from us, and they are the things we should focus on. Thus, aparigraha also implies that we should focus on what cannot be lost... finding our inner true self, and on what we give to others and the world."

So inspiring! Goosebumps!

The best and easiest way to bring a bit of Apirigraha into our lives is simply to observe our own behaviour, to question our own motivations (gently of course; don't forget Ahimsa!) Do you really "need" all the things you think you do? Are you expecting happiness from external objects or people? Are you giving with the hopes of getting something in return? Or genuinely, without expectation? 

Relationships are often where grasping can creep in. We often treat people like possessions, believing them to be able to "give" us the happiness we desire. As the buddhists would say, this is like "licking honey from a razor blade" (visceral!) If we look to other to supply happiness for us we will always be grasping and needy. If we learn to supply this to ourselves, by being conscious of and grateful for all that we already have, we will be free to live and love genuinely without ulterior motives or expectation.

So just so we are clear, it not the possessions or thoughts in themselves that are the problem, it's the tightness of our grip. It is fine to want things, or to be in relationship, or even to have a fancy phone (KNOCK YOURSELF OUT!) Just check how tightly you are attached to those things. Loosen it up a little and see how things go.

Along with this, try practicing gratitude for the things you already possess and the abundance you have around you. Adopt a "glass half full" attitude in other words! Stop focusing on what you don't have and notice what you do. Before you go to sleep at night think of three things you are grateful for. Even if one of them is your doona and the other two are your pillows! I don't care :)

If we choose to acknowledge abundance and blessings even if things aren't exactly as you would like them to be we become more open to the good things that are all around us in life. Even if they aren't the ones we specifically asked for. That's life brogis... Remember the song!



You might also be interested in:

Summertime Yoga @ Schoolhouse!

Come along Brogis! Here is the event on facebook.

And check us out on THE THOUSANDS!