Grace's Blog

Creating Space for Change

At 33 weeks pregnant, I am frantically ‘nesting’… the rumours are true! Both pregnancies, I have just been so focused on sorting, tidying, throwing…creating space. Space for this new life that will enter my world. It is not something I have intentionally told myself to do, or planned; but rather an intuitive part of me has just taken over and I feel the need to create space for this baby that will meet me on the ‘other side’ in just a few weeks.

It makes me wonder how much space in our lives we create to allow the ‘new’ to enter…how much of the ‘old’ we can potentially cling to. As I dig through old paperwork, or go through the medicine cabinet, I see so many ‘expired’ items that I no longer need or desire. Our needs, our desires change. If we don’t ‘check-in’ once in a while, we may remain unchanged, stagnant and bury deeper in our set ways. I have often heard that a person’s mental state can be reflected in the state of their home or their work space. So a person who is tidy in their outward life is reflecting a ‘tidy’ or clear mind. Does this ring true for you or someone you know?

Yoga is about doing clean outs – ‘checking in’ is something we often do at the beginning and end of a yoga class. Checking in with the breath, body, state of the mind… and it is at the end of the yoga class, you notice a shift in these states. A much calmer and relaxed state is often the case. I see yoga as an incredible ‘clean out’ tool for the body and the mind. In fact, the first niyama (discipline or observance) in Ashtanga yoga is saucha (purity or cleanliness) where Patanjali (author of the Yoga Sutras) encourages the yogi to maintain a state of cleanliness in body and mind. Let’s use a yoga class as a simple but effective example. We can practice this cleanliness in the way we:

• Lay out our mat: is it aligned, clean, ready for class?
• Come to class: do we have strong body odours, a towel to wipe off sweat, keep any clutter away from us (like shoes) while we practice?
• Put our props away: do we stack them in an orderly manner, are we mindful of others while waiting our turn?
• Show awareness of our surroundings: do we step on other people’s mats, wear strong perfumes, assist the teacher in packing up after class?

These simple practices cultivate an awareness of self, others and surroundings. As we become more mindful, our behaviour changes. We start to notice the sacredness of things around us.

Sometimes I ‘forget’ that I carry a sacred life within me. It is easy to go about your daily life without ‘checking-in’. Little rituals can help us to remember these important, sacred things. In an effort to do this, I have made an effort during my pregnancies to rub some oil onto my belly each night before bed and whisper some words to my baby. I love this ‘check-in’ time even if it’s a simple “hi baby, mummy is here” because it reminds me that despite the ‘busy-ness’ of everyday life, there is a sacredness that is present. Right here, right now…one that I can so easily miss if I don’t open my eyes and heart to it.

So what can you do now to create some space in your life?

Can you make some space to ‘check-in’ to help create a space for change?

Grace's Blog

The Second Limb Of Ashtanga Yoga: Niyama

The last few months, the focus has been on the first limb of Ashtanga yoga – yama (restraints).  As discussed a few months back, there are 8 limbs of Ashtanga yoga:

  1. Yama (restraint)
  2. Niyama (observances)
  3. Asana (posture)
  4. Pranayama (breath control)
  5. Pratyahara (controlling the senses)
  6. Dharana (concentration)
  7. Dhyana (meditation)
  8. Samadhi (absolute consciousness)

We will now focus on the second limb, niyama.

Niyama refers to individual discipline or observance and is the Sanskrit term meaning rule or law.  They refer to the cultivation of following good habits.  Like the five yamas, the niyamas are not exercises or actions to be simply studied; they represent far more than an attitude, but an inner state of the mind. The niyamas are more intimate and personal than the yamas and they refer to the attitude we adopt toward ourselves.

The five niyamas (codes of conduct) of Patanjali’s Eight Fold Path are:

  1. Saucha (purity or cleanliness)
  2. Santosha (contentment)
  3. Tapas (austerity)
  4. Swadhyaya (self-study)
  5. Pranidhana (devotion to God).

Let us examine these niyamas in more detail. This month we’ll focus on the first niyama, saucha.

Saucha is total cleanliness and purity of both mind and body. The body is considered to be the temple or dwelling-place of the Atman (Self) which is used to worship the divine and so external and internal cleanliness is of chief importance.  External cleanliness (bahya) is seen to have a psychological effect on a person and includes general hygiene, a clean environment and adhering to a healthy diet.  Similarly we need to follow a mental diet where internal cleanliness (abhyantara) helps to cleanse and strengthen the mind.  This includes cultivating connections among those who are spiritually minded by regulating our reading, conversation and generally our intake of mental “food.”  Saint Francois de Sales observes that constant awareness of cleanliness of the mind is important so that “once thrown off its balance, the heart is no longer its own master.”  Christian mystics have stressed the importance of being in a state of purification where one’s mind is rid of distractions of thoughts and desires; cultivating sensitivity to what is pure and wholesome.  Purification is not seen as emptying out but leads to greater intentness in one’s life where self-purification comes from not only self-effort but by through centring oneself to a personal identification and unity with the divine.  For the yogi, purification is connected with an inner transformation where one can more clearly see God.

 Through simplicity and continual refinement (Saucha), the body, thoughts, and emotions become clear reflections of the Self within. Saucha reveals our joyful nature, and the yearning for knowing the Self blossoms.
 Yoga Sutras 2.40-2.41