*****This is the next in a series of posts about the 8 Limbs of Yoga and how they can apply to your life. The 8 Limbs of Yoga as described by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras are a kind of roadmap to help your yoga practice extend out far past the physical benefits into a way of living that can bring peace and harmony to all of your relationships and in any circumstance.
The first of the 8 limbs of yoga are the Yamas. The Yamas are a series of guidelines, or ethical principles to follow. They apply to how we treat ourselves and how we treat others.
As we explore these principles through the lens of yoga we will look at the more subtle examples of how we may not be following these guidelines for ourselves and others.*****
The next of the Yamas is Nonexcess, in Sanskrit - Brahmacharya.
Nonexcess - Brahmacharya
This principle is often translated as moderation or restraint of the senses. Moderation in food… moderation in drink… moderation in pleasure… in sex… in Netflix… in social media consumption… in spending money… in video games… in exercise… in sleep… our phones… basically restraint in everything.
These things stimulate our senses in some way, they feel good mentally or physically and in small does are a good thing, even necessary for our survival. But when we overindulge, when we start seeking these pleasures of the world in a way that affects our life or the lives of our loved ones, that’s where this practice of restraint comes in.
We can pretty much all relate to having overindulged in something and having feelings of regret afterward. This principle of yoga speaks to that but also asks us to explore what caused us to overindulge in the first place.
When we overindulge in a certain behavior we are usually trading the feelings of pleasure we get from that behavior for the more uncomfortable feelings in our real life. Noticing when we tend to over-consume and what we are trying to escape from in that moment is the first step in practicing restraint.
When we are unhappy in our life, or feel stuck or unfulfilled, it’s easy to buffer with food or alcohol or time disconnecting from the people in our lives. It feels better to numb ourselves to the difficult emotions that we may be feeling.
But after the overindulging, we feel guilty, bad about ourselves, and often seek the same indulgence again to manage the guilt or shame we feel from the last overindulgence. Plus we still have the original difficult emotions to deal with in the first place. It’s a messy cycle.
So what can we do?
First, we practice awareness. Notice when you tend to reach for those buffers. What else is going on? What might have triggered it?
Practice moderation, knowing that you may tend to overindulge and become the observer of your behavior, without judgment, just with curiosity. Notice when you begin to feel like you’re crossing over into overindulging and why.
Journalling through the process and practicing meditation can help to reset the part of the brain that is stuck in the loop of desiring the behavior in question. But simply observing your tendencies to overindulge before, during and after can really be interesting.
We go through so much of our lives on autopilot. Simply stopping for a moment to observe our behavior, question why we’re choosing it, and choosing something else can be very powerful.
Take a moment to ask yourself: What am I overconsuming? What am I trying to avoid feeling?
Find some time, a few minutes in your day for stillness, and just breathe. Notice how that stillness feels.
Want a little help? I’ve created this Yoga Nidra Practice to guide you. Yoga Nidra is a guided practice, similar to meditation that allows you to find deep rest for your body and your mind. All you need to do is lie down, get really comfortable and listen. You can download it here.
Want a little more help? I’d love to chat and see if Yoga and Wellness coaching is for you. And if it’s not, that's ok too. You get to make that choice. And I’ll support you making it! You can book a Free Consultation call with me Here. I can’t wait to hear from you.
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