I live and breathe (and work) yoga.
One of the most important messages I have to share about yoga, is about the common misconception that yoga is just about bending yourself into (or out of) shape.
Yoga is an ancient psychological system designed to lead us to happiness and enlightenment. The teachings and practices have stood the test of time, and they’re just as relevant to our modern life today as they were thousands of years ago.
What we see in most modern yoga classes, is just a small part of what yoga is. The yoga postures and the breath work are very important parts of the system of yoga, but did you know there is more?
Without going into too much detail, there are 8 limbs to yoga (postures are just one of the limbs). The first two limbs are suggestions about how live a life in a way that is least likely to make us unhappy and disturb our equalibrium.
Firstly there are the yamas (ethical restraints):
1. Non-violence (ahimsa)
2. Truthfulness (satya)
3. Not taking what is not yours (asteya)
4. Moderation (brahmacharya)
5. Letting go / not grasping (aparigraha)
And then there are the niyamas (lifestyle observances):
1. Purity / cleanliness (saucha)
2. Contentment (santosha)
3. Effort (tapas)
4. Self study (svadhyaya)
5. Surrender to God (ishvara pranidhana)
Stephen Cope, one of the amazing teachers I interviewed for the Gratitude Interviews book describes the yamas and niyamas as being “about avoiding behaviours that produce suffering and difficulty, and embracing those that lead to states of happiness.” They are simply suggestions and are most definitely not commandments that we must obey.
While gratitude may not look like a yogic practice on the surface, it actually weaves many of the yamas and niyamas together in a simple, beautiful and seamless way.
The yoga of gratitude
When I focus on things I’m grateful for, a very clear sense of contentment (santosha) arises in me.
I’m getting to know myself better (svadhyaya) as I realise what it is in my life I’m grateful for. It helps me to get my priorities clear and understand my own truths (satya).
When I’m feeling content with what is already present in my life, I’m less likely to be caught up in the constant search for more and more and more (aparigraha) or taking what is not mine (asteya).
By pausing in my day to notice what I’m grateful for, I’m consciously making an effort to shape my reality (tapas).
Giving my mind a positive focus is kindness to myself (ahimsa), as I consciously give my mind a joyful focus rather than an unhelpful one.
And most importantly, by expressing gratitude, I’m bowing down to the universe and saying thank you (ishvara pranidhana).
Happiness in your true nature
Yogis believe that happiness (ananda) is our true nature. An uncaused happiness, that needs no rhyme or reason to be joyful. While many of us intellectually know this to be true (if you’ve spent any time on facebook recently I’m sure you would have read about it!), many of us still have a hard time embodying this truth.
Gratitude is a gateway into uncaused happiness. It helps us to let go of the layers of suffering and discontent, and simply to be with life just as it is. And when we’re with life just as it is, we’re in the flow of the universe.
I do hope you can join me for Capturing Gratitude. We’re taking photographs for 30 days of things we’re grateful for starting on the International Day of Happiness.
Grounded in both yogic wisdom and positive psychology, gratitude a simple practice that just might change your life (it’s changed mine).
Sign up now at www.capturinggratitude.com.
With a deep bow of gratitude to you for coming on this journey with me,