|Llewellyn's 2019 Daily Planetary Guide
ITEM # 9780738746074
|Yoga for the Creative Soul
ITEM # 9780738752181
|The Pure Heart of Yoga
ITEM # 9780738714875
I'd been practicing yoga for fifteen years, and teaching for about twelve, when I found out I was pregnant with my first, my son. His conception was not without its efforts, some of which included acupuncture for a year with the requisite nasty-smelling tea, temperature charts and peeing on sticks, a trip to the Maori healers where my uterus was essentially rolfed by a friendly giant named Papa Joe, and finally, a visit to a fertility doctor who concluded quickly that my estrogen levels were a little low. The first time I went to my mat after my positive pregnancy test, I stood in tadasana, connected to my breath, and thought, "Okay, I have to be gentle, there's someone in here counting on me."
It was as if the sky parted and the gods of compassion, or all that is right with the world, yelled down, "Are you f&%*ing kidding us???!" I was well-versed in the eight limbs of yoga, had been trying in earnest to live in line with the moral and ethical foundation of the practice for well over a decade, had completed a dozen different trainings with well-respected teachers, and attended four different 10-day silent meditation retreats, along with my own daily practice. The idea that it took my pregnancy to wake me up and make me realize I needed to apply these principles of kindness, awareness, and honesty to my own practice was alarming to say the least. I thought, "Wait a minute. What am I saying? Why do I need to remind myself to be gentle when I get on my mat? There's always someone in here counting on me. Me!"
That moment changed the way I practice and the way I teach, and, I think, the way I move through the world. The wonderful meditation teacher Jack Kornfield has a quote: "If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete." I understood that until I learned how to be kind to myself for my own sake, I really wasn't going to "get it."
That moment began the second phase of my own practice, and shifted everything for me. The moral and ethical foundation of the yoga practice is known as the Yama and Niyama. They make up the first of the eight limbs of the practice, and they are known as the "shalls" and "shall nots;" they're like yoga's Golden Rules. The very first one is "ahimsa," or non-harming. I'd been vegetarian for years at this point in an effort to live in line with that idea, and made a daily practice of examining my thoughts, words, and actions, but the quality of my internal dialogue was still brutal. My loud inner critic hadn't quieted down much, and that is where I began. Below are three ways I've noticed that yoga changes your life for the better.
It can be confusing when you see yoga represented through pictures. It's very hard to photograph a person's process, so you might look on Instagram, and see someone in a bikini on a yacht in Bali with her ankle behind her head and say, "What?!? If that's what yoga is, it doesn't apply to me!" But, yoga is about so much more than the poses. It's about tuning in and facing those places within you where you still have healing to do. It's about developing a breathing practice so you can lean into difficult emotions when they arise, and therefore know yourself. It's about strengthening your intuition, which makes decision-making so much easier. It's about witnessing your reaction to confrontation, and practicing self-compassion, so you can offer compassion to others. Yoga is a way home to yourself, so you can offer up your gifts, and create a life that feels meaningful and fulfilling. There's not a "happiness formula" that works for everyone, but yoga offers each person the ability to find her or his own way, and ultimately, if we want life to feel good, that's a journey we each must take.
Ally Hamilton is a Santa Monica-based yoga teacher, writer, and life coach who connects daily with yogis all around the world via her online yoga classes. She's the co-creator of http://www.yogisanonymous.com, which has ...