When most people think of yoga, they think only of sweaty bodies breathing deeply and moving in and out of different postures. But what people don’t know is that the postures are actually only a very small part of the whole system of yoga. Yoga is more than just a practice that you do on a mat, it’s a lifestyle that brings about health and wellbeing.
The ancient teachings of yoga include a codified system of do’s and don’ts that when practiced along with breathing practices, meditation, and physical postures can help practitioners reclaim their lives from the stress and chaos of addiction, eating disorder, and trauma.
First, let’s look at the don’ts:
- Do no harm to self or others – this applies to behaviors, the words we choose, and our thoughts.
- Commitment to being honest and living in alignment with truth.
- Not stealing – this teaching goes deeper than blatant theft of property, but asks us to be aware of not stealing other’s time, energy, experiences, or relationships.
- Practicing restraint or moderation with food, substances, sex, work, shopping or anywhere else that we find ourselves tending to overindulge.
- Non-attachment to our ‘stuff’ – belongings and relationships definitely fall into this category, but it also includes not attaching to things that our ego identifies with such as our pain, our trauma, or our diagnoses.
And now let’s explore the do’s:
- Cleanliness of body, mind, and environment. Managing the media sources we read and watch is one way of keeping a clean mind, keeping our home clear of clutter, and practicing daily personal hygiene all fall under this teaching.
- Contentment – choosing to accept your present moment experience and choosing to see beauty when life feels tough. Looking up to a blue sky, spending a moment to enjoy a breath of fresh air, or enjoying the smell of a flower are all ways to find contentment when we are feeling down.
- Discipline to make choices that nourish wellbeing such as getting up a few minutes early each day to meditate or practice yoga, choosing to nourish your body with healthy food, or choosing a healthy coping behavior rather than a harmful one.
- Self-study – becoming curious about your patterns and behaviors. Talking with a therapist is a great way to practice self-study.
- Spiritual connection – recognizing a connection to higher principles, higher power, God, oneness, or the universe.
Practicing these ten principles can lead us to be more kind, content, and self-aware. They guide us from pain and suffering to health and wellbeing. And, while we may not have the desire to try the physical practice of the poses we can always choose to ‘do yoga’ by aligning our choices with this beautiful and compassionate philosophy.