20 Jun Yoga off the Mat – 3 Powerful Principles
The wisdom of yoga gracefully stretches to all areas of life. This timeless philosophy of life embraces art and science. Yoga is not merely something to be done on a Thursday evening between 7-9. Instead it is a rich technology for successful living. Yoga offers powerful principles that are as beneficial in the fast moving world of today as they were to the sages of old.
The principles of yoga extend off the mat into all aspects of daily life. Yoga extends itself to the way we live and the degree of success we achieve. I started practising yoga in 1979, while working a night shift at a hospital. Yoga helped me relax and unwind, it re-charged my batteries to such a degree that instead of sleeping during my days, I treated them as time off. I felt great and enjoyed time and energy in abundance. I used the extra time to plan my escape and was soon running my own fashion business. I never looked back. From then until now the spiritual essence of yoga provides a foundation for my life.
Yoga is so incredibly vast and diverse
Over the past 30 years I have studied and taught some of the most powerful skills and techniques available for healthy and successful living. I trained in humanistic psychology, psychotherapy, healing, complementary medicine and coaching. I have explored the new sciences such as positive psychology, consciousness studies and quantum psychics and I will continue to study. Yet wherever my journey has taken me I always return to yoga. Why? Because all the above and much more is contained within the ancient teachings of yoga. That’s what I really love. Yoga is so incredibly vast and diverse. So much is embraced within its teachings. From awareness of the simplest contraction and expansion of the breath, to the philosophical sutras of Patanjali, to the ever-evolving consciousness of the chakras, the knowledge and richness yoga offers the world we live in is infinite.
People often ask me if I still teach yoga, usually referring to asana classes? I explain that I don’t teach asana classes anymore. My focus is no longer on physical postures, my work is about spiritual and personal development, so yes I most certainly still teach yoga. Yoga is one of the most effective ways to transform lives that I know and it permeates my work and everything I do.
Yoga off the Mat Basics, Yoga ABC’s
A – Alignment
Alignment, Breathing and Concentration are 3 key principles in yoga. These fundamental building blocks are stressed by all teachers and are sure not to escape the attention of even the most novice practitioner. On the mat you are constantly reminded to correctly align your posture, deepen your breathing and focus the ever-busy oscillations of your mind. If this is a challenge on the yoga mat, then it’s an even bigger dilemma off the mat. However it is well worth spending some energy developing your awareness of how you align yourself in life, how you breathe through life and how much concentration and focus you have in your everyday activities.
Living a fulfilled and successful life requires you to be present, to step up and step out, to show up in the world. Alignment asks you to live your life on purpose. It asks for extension, precision and clarity. Through alignment you are encouraged to connect deeply to the earth while reaching for heaven. We all have the potential to excel to take our individual talents, gifts, idiosyncrasies and life experiences and weave them into something wonderful. Oprah has said that she loves to talk. How easy is that! But look how powerfully she uses her gift.
- What is your life purpose?
- What are you really been asked to do with your life?
- What is the divine gift you bring into our world?
Answer these three questions honestly and quickly. The first thing that comes to mind is usually the most meaningful. Answering the questions will move you toward proper alignment in your life. This is one of the many gifts yoga offers. Yoga helps purify the physical vessel and clear the mind, this allows energy to flow more freely through the energy pathways known as nadis. When Prana, life energy, flows unobstructed through your physical vessel more of who you really are shines through. This allows you to step into your divine purpose. We each have an important role to play in the greater scheme of things.
I am sure many readers have transformation stories that they attribute to yoga. My own life has been totally transformed, no more night shift for me! And I have coached people to align their lives to such a degree that it has taken them from un-inspiring to awe inspiring. They have realised they have unique gifts. Maybe an ability to work with children in a moving way or the art of writing poetry or singing: I have helped people leave jobs that have been holding them back and embark on a life of greater meaning and purpose. Yoga helps people come into alignment with something bigger, a powerful force that allows for inner greatness.
All we have to do is breathe into that greatness. Swami Sivananda taught that life is measured in breaths rather than years. It is said that we enter the world with a specific number of breaths for our use, and when we have used them all, we die. Therefore it is deemed wise to breathe slowly and deeply to prolong life. Getting stressed out, upset and angry leads to short, sharp, shallow, breathing and this uses up lots of breaths, which causes illness and shortens life. Aha! Now you see why khumbaka, which is, controlled breath retention, is so important. In my Book Opening to Spirit I introduce yogic breath, and the practise of khumbaka. Breathing signals life. As long as you are alive breath is your constant companion.
The word spirit literally comes from the Latin word ‘spiritus’ meaning breath. Breath is the animating life force. We can be enthused, inspired and passionate these are all feelings that relate to spirit and our capacity to be fully alive. To be filled with Prana the life force. When we practise yoga postures, breathing and meditation we are connecting with what it is to be truly alive. We can use our yoga practise to breathe life into everything we do.
The respiratory system is unique in that it comes under both autonomic and voluntary control. That means if we don’t think about our breath it works automatically and if we choose to, we can voluntarily exercise some control over it. The respiratory system is also in the unique position of creating an interface between the body and the mind. Whenever we choose to control our breath and practise yoga breathing and pranayama techniques, we instantly affect the mind. The breath is fundamental in controlling the waves and thought patterns of the mind. So as you go about your daily life, be mindful of your breath. Be aware of any subtle changes and remember to take time just being present with your breath. I advocate taking two minutes in every hour, to stop and be conscious of your breath. It helps relax and re-focus your attention. Whether you are at the office, home or any workplace use your breath to consciously enthuse and inspire you.
Concentration – Dharana
Enhanced awareness of breath improves concentration. Concentration or focused attention is a powerful inner resource that grows as a result of practising yoga. Pranayama and meditation are excellent for building your capacity to concentrate. I used to teach yoga in a mens prison. The men often found it difficult to concentrate, their minds busy and distracted. This is common for beginners and after time concentration slowly improves. I know my concentrate was very poor when I started yoga.
When the rays of the sun are focused through a magnifying glass fire can be created. Likewise when the rays of your mind are concentrated through yoga and focused on any goal you have in life, success is in your reach. If we are to achieve any endeavour we choose in life, focused attention is essential. There is a saying that as we journey through life there are three kinds of people, “those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened? “ which are you?
Are you aligned and on purpose in your life? Are you fully alive and passionate about the life and the breath that moves you and are you a person that makes things happen?
Caroline Shola Arewa
Award winning Wellness Coach, Speaker and Author. Shola supports people to get their Energy back and Life on track! Shola is the Founder/Director of the popular Energy 4 Life Wellness Coach Training and has appeared on radio and TV worldwide. To find out more about, Shola’s books, Wellness Coaching and training programmes and to receive your Free 7-day E-mail-course on Creating More Energy, Ease and Excellence in your life and work visit: energy4lifecoach.com and sign up.
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