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My Week with the Yamas

My Week with the Yamas

Over the course of two weeks this summer, Pat Harada Linfoot took over the 1pm class and each day, from Monday through Friday, masterfully unfolded the yamas and niyamas. Magically weaving the theme of the day into each class, we moved, breathed and embodied the seed that had been planted in our hearts. Joined by special guests, JP Tamblyn, on our very first day and accompanied by Darren Hall, on our very last, after each class I came away with a new understanding of our daily yama or niyama.

On day one, ahimsa settled onto the very bottom of my soul and from this foundation of non-harm and non-violence, everything else could be built. I would move with awareness and compassion and love for my body, respecting it’s limits and embracing the unique way in which my body expressed each pose, even if my downward dog or warrior three looked nothing like the ones surrounding me.

In yoga, we often speak of building a pose from the ground up and I began to understand the many ways in which I harm myself and others, with my thoughts, words and actions. I could see how I judge and how I point fingers and how I accuse and how I kill myself—and my loved ones—with my aggression and anger.

What if, instead of lashing out, I paused with whatever emotion or reaction was arising within? What if I paused long enough for this feeling to run its way through my body so that I could truly feel it and own it…and what if I could do this with compassion and love? What if I allowed my frustration to be embraced by my heart and what if, through some yogic alchemy and old-fashioned patience, I allowed that hurt and that anger to be turned into love?

And so the first yama, ahimsa, is joined by the second yama, satya (truth). Because when you promise not to hurt yourself in your practice, you are confronted with the truth of who you are. You are confronted with the truth of your body’s limitations (or lack of), you are confronted with the thoughts that might try to nudge their way into your asana, beginning to pull at the thread of your mind, distracting you from diving deeper into yourself and getting closer to the truth.

Our bodies are masterful and intelligent…and they are sneaky. We hide our memories in our hips, we store uncomfortable emotions in our lower back, we sweep our feelings under the carpet and tension and pain collect in our muscles and bones. If you have every held pigeon for longer than one minute, you know that over time, as your body begins to settle—twitching and yearning to move out of discomfort—the hip begins to open and like a vault has been sprung open, all sorts of ‘stuff’ starts to arise. It can be confusing and scary and our fight or flight starts to kick in because we are so very afraid of the truth. The truth of who we are and how we feel and what our truth is.

The foundation of our practice, of our very existence, continues to strengthen; ahimsa and satya like roots growing deeper into the earth, we are ready for the third yama—asteya (non-stealing).

Rather than looking at our lives and our practice and everything that we are as lacking something, can we say with love and honesty, that we are enough? Can we aspire towards abundance, gratitude, joy, interconnection, inspiration, trust, co-operation and faith? Can we erase all doubt that we are where and who we are supposed to be, in this time, in this place? Can we let go of the clutter, of the noise, of anything that no longer contributes to our higher selves?

Pause for a moment; sit straight up and root your feet into the ground. Place your hands over your heart and close your eyes. Repeat this, ‘so hum’, over and over, until you can feel the vibration in your bones.

I am enough. You are enough. So hum. So hum.

And as we harness this energy, as our roots continue to grow deeper and deeper, with the first three yamas beating in our hearts, we can welcome brahmacharya (wise use of energy), the fourth yama, into our practice.

Brahmacharya encourages us to find balance, to use moderation, both on and off our mats and to invite in spirit and the idea of connection. We find ways to contain ourselves yet allow ourselves to be open to the possibilities of the universe. Leading us into savasana at the end of fourth class, Pat’s showered us with these words:

“Belief in connection. Belief in a power greater than self. Belief that love, kindness, compassion, joy, fuels the connection to ourselves and to that power. Embrace all parts of ourselves and overcome feelings of separation from ourselves and others.”

And finally, the fifth and final yama: aparigraha (non-greed or generosity).

Over the course of the week, I witnessed my teacher and my fellow practitioners, continue to give to each other. We came together in a space held by love and opened up our minds, bodies and souls to old ideas presented in new ways. We challenged everything we understood about our practice, emptying ourselves of patterns and comfort and released our hold on what we thought we knew. We embodied generosity and practiced as individuals, yes…but also as a community.

And at the end of each day, our hearts knew how deeply we loved and how fully we were able to let go.


Written by Bryonie Wise

Bryonie’s life is rooted in the belief that when we come from a place of love, anything is possible. When not teaching yoga (or playing her crystal singing bowls) she can be found most afternoons at the dog park, with her camera, her love and her dog. She has also been known to make leaps into the great unknown. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

One response »

  1. Very beautifully written, and illuminating. Thank you


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