A rose does not compare itself with the other roses, it just blooms!
This month I am writing and teaching about the Niyama – five ideas from the Yoga Sutras that are about our personal habits. I think of them as a simple yogic model of self care and am almost a little amused to let you know (or remind you) that the first one is ‘cleanliness’.
I am sure none of us need any more prompting to maintain good standards of personal hygiene at the moment. However the original Sankrit word śauca is related to the word sattva, which implies the cultivation of lightness and clarity at all levels of our being. The personal discipline of śauca might refer to a cleanliness of thought and deed as well as a thorough twenty-second hand wash. Does what you do, what you eat, what you read and how you practice yoga make you feel cleaner, lighter and brighter?
The second niyama is saṃtoṣa or ‘contentment’, which means being at ease with where we are at. Notably, it is not described as something to work towards but rather something to practice right here, where we are now. We may need to come to accept some things that cannot be changed (your hip sockets might simply not be designed for full splits!)
This is absolutely not the same thing as refusing to change (or avoiding) the things we should not accept. I am going to write more about that next week when I write about the third niyama which is called tapas and involves confronting our entrenched habits and beliefs. The whole world benefits when we summon the courage for this.
We can practice saṃtoṣa on our yoga mats by closing our eyes and being guided by sensation into a posture, rather than ambition. How it feels is always more important than how it looks and as my teacher Judith Lasater likes to say
“Yoga is not about touching your toes, it is what you learn on the way down!.
Perhaps one of the best ways we can strengthen our “self-care muscles” is to practice saying ‘No’. We can say ‘no’ to postures, movements or breathing techniques that we know in our hearts do not really serve us. Off the mat, we can say ‘no’ to all sorts of offers, invitations or old habits so that we might say ‘yes’ to something else. That something else might be the twenty minutes you need today to rest and re-set, to feel fully human and alive.
Can you say ‘Yes’ to yourself today? Is there anything you need to say ‘No’ to first?