Some philosophy to keep you intrigued
“Compassion is the fastest path to happiness for ourselves and for the world around us.” Gelong Thubten; A monk’s guide to happiness.
Yoga Sutra Ch1 V33
1. Be friendly to those who are friendly
2. Have good will to those who do good things
3. Have compassion for those who are suffering
4. Create distance from those who mean us harm
I came across this simple and clear definition of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra’s thanks to my friend and fellow yogi Gary Ward (Zoë’s partner in life and in yoga).
What are we talking about here? Is this Yoga? Well, actually yes it is.
Here are some of my own interpretations of this sutra:
1. Through a balanced and useful yoga practice we are finding an inner friendship, getting to know ourselves perhaps in ways that we hadn’t considered before. Like, what will happen if I move my arm in this direction and with the support of my breath? How does this change the feeling or experience? In many ways we’re finding time for ourselves to become our own friends. To know when something feels right, or doesn’t and to develop an intuition as we explore new boundaries. If we can be friendly towards ourselves, then we may find it easier to be friendly with others, and especially if they show the same level of compassion towards you.
2. In your yoga practice notice when something feels good and acknowledge this for yourself. If you have achieved something that you hadn’t previously been able to do and connected new pathways of movement in your body from your brain, celebrate it. If you feel happier in yourself then perhaps you’ll be able to feel happier and more supportive for people when they too have accomplished something for themselves.
3. Be kind to yourself when you are suffering. Yoga helps us to notice and tune in to the differences between sensation and pain. When it comes to yoga if you are experiencing pain in your body then this is a clear sign that something isn’t right, you are moving away from the goals of yoga. Listen to the signals that you receive through your yoga practice. If you can recognise your own pain more easily perhaps you’ll be able to recognise pain in others too and be there for them when they need you. Our practice helps us to develop a level of self-compassion and care.
4. Creating distance from those who mean us harm isn’t always as easy as it sounds. More often we find ourselves caught up in the drama of other people’s lives. and how do we know if we have the ‘right’ kind of friends? Let yoga act as a filtering process for you. By creating space in your lives for something more meaningful such as a daily yoga practice, then more often than not you begin to surround yourself with like-minded individuals as you learn what is important to you. It’s like having an internal filter.
This sutra resonates with me because for a long time I felt caught up in other people’s drama. I wasn’t being kind to myself, I felt quite bitter towards others whose lives seemingly appeared happier in comparison and I didn’t give myself space enough to be able to realise what was really happening. My distance between those who were causing me harm and those who loved me was vast. I didn’t fully notice the pain I was in.
I had already been practising yoga for a few years, and started to take it more seriously once I came across Zoë’s classes in Leicester. Whenever I left I seemed to feel so much better than I did when I arrived. I felt light and clear in both my body and my mind. Over time I formed friendships with the people I practised alongside and felt very supported by Zoë. It felt inclusive and non-competitive. Whilst at first I tried my hardest to do everything Zoë presented to us, over time I realised it wasn’t about trying hard or hoping to get some kind of physical fix, it felt more about having space in my life for me to do something meaningful for myself. This was a natural progression.
The people whose drama circles I was drawn into gradually began to fade away. I empowered myself to move away from those who were causing me harm and maintained healthy relationships with those who showed kindness and compassion. Once I found space for yoga in my day to day, there was no way it was going to go. But, what my experience of yoga has also taught me is that it’s important to remain flexible, not too rigid with our daily plans. If we are in pain, a daily yoga practice can change to accommodate us, or to help build resilience – physical or emotional. Yoga shouldn’t be forced into the day, there should be a space for it that is there with ease, and if you’d prefer to be with others who make you happy in life, that’s just as important.
Yoga is a transformative practice. One that can deeply support us both physically and emotionally. It doesn’t revolve around instagram or You Tube and you don’t have to be able to touch your toes to do it. Once you can find time and space to practice yoga, in a caring and curious manner you’ll soon realise its potential.
Perhaps you would like to explore yoga with me this year either in a class, workshop or 121 scenario. Whatever you decide it will always be my aim to provide accessible movement and sequencing, mindful-breath work and space and time for you to be friendly, joyous and kind, whilst you learn to be able to let go for yourselves of anything that may be getting in the way of those qualities.
One of my favourite practice ideas:
Setting an intention can really lift and heighten your experience of yoga. For some of us drawing upon a special quality or feeling will go further to bring us into a more mindful or receptive state of mind. It can completely transform one movement from becoming mundane to something that feels once again completely new and different all together. It’s a wonderful way to start layering our practice.
Imagine your hands are an extension of your heart.
Begin by sitting with your hands over your heart. Breathing in fully into your heart space, exhaling down through your body to the earth.
Continue to follow the breath in this way. As you breathe into your heart space through your hands you may notice that you feel more connected to your heart – physically and emotionally.
Then, breathe in from your heart and open your hands out wide, stretching along the length of your arms, let your fingers spread wide.
Exhale draw your hands lovingly back over your heart.
Repeat 6 times.
Over the course of the movement imagine you are breathing in fully from your heart through your hands and into the space around you. As you exhale imagine you are offering that love back through your hands towards your heart.
Settle and notice how you feel. Do you feel more connected to your heart? Can you continue to flow with this feeling from your heart to your hands for the next few moments, hour or day…? Imagine everything you touch is coming from your heart, with a sense of love, care and friendliness.
Classes start in Broadbottom and Marple on the 6th and 8th January and will continue for the next 6 weeks.
I look forward to seeing you there.