As we wind down after the Thanksgiving Holiday, and prepare to ramp up for the potential (commercially induced) frenzy of the next few weeks, we must remember to take time for our practice and for the health and fitness or our spirit. It is definitely a good time to consider my spiritual fitness as I am finally walking away from an 18 year marriage. Through this process, I must navigate the muddied waters of the many emotions that go with that. I fluctuate wildly from emotion to emotion like a wrecking ball demolishing a condemned building swinging from corner to corner, loneliness and despair in the southwest corner, anger and defiance in the northeast corner, depression and self-pity in the southeast corner, self-doubt and anxiety in the northwest corner, and finally hope and confidence right down the heart center, ultimately crushing all illusions and illuminating the truth.
It is my yoga practice that has helped me get to this point in the first place, and now helps me navigate these waters. Through the physical challenge and focus I find peace and stillness in my mind, heart, and soul. Many of us focus on physical fitness this time of year. Working off all that Thanksgiving pie may be in the forefront of our minds, the motivating factor that gets us to the mat the week after the gluttonous holiday, but we must consider, make space and time for, and honor our spiritual fitness as well. If that means sweating it out to get past the physical sensations so that we can quiet the madness and heal our spirit, then that’s what I’ll do.
It is the practice that, particularly at this time of year, and in light of my current personal journey, leads me to consider the five yamas and niyamas; these are moral, ethical and social guidelines for behavior. The five yamas can be thought of as restraints, particularly from actions, words, or thoughts that may cause harm: (ahiṃsā-nonviolence, non-harming of others; satya-truthfulness, non-falsehood; asteya-non-stealing; brahmacarya-sexual responsibility; aparigraha-non-avarice, non-possessiveness). The five niyamas, can be thought of as virtuous habits, behaviors and observances, values that we must strive to achieve (sauca-purity, clearness of mind; speech and body; santoṣa-contentment, acceptance of others; tapas-persistence, perseverance, austerity; svādhyāya-study of Vedas, study of self, self-reflection;iśvarapraṇidhāna-contemplation of the Ishvara or God/Supreme Being). It is important for me to observe these values, particularly with regard to my separated partner.
In short, I do yoga to feel good, physically, and I ultimately end up feeling good, spiritually. The practice reminds me to be kind, not only to myself, but also to others, even others with whom I may be angry or whom I perceive may have hurt me. And so, in the spirit of Thanksgiving and the five yamas and niyamas, I seek awareness of my spiritual fitness, I seek peace, joy, and contentment, and I wish these things for you as well.