Terre Pruitt's Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘spiritual practices’

Svadhyaya – The Fourth Niyama

Posted by terrepruitt on March 21, 2016

I’m still looking into the Eight Limbs of Yoga (1:  The yamas – restrictions/restraints/ethical principles    2:  The niyamas – rules/observances/spiritual practices    3:  The asana – the poses    4:  Pranayama – breath work    5:  Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses    6:  Dharana – concentration    7:  Dhyana – meditation and    8:  Samadhi – transcendence)  I am working my way down the list posting about a little bit about each limb.  With the first two limbs there are five of each yama and niyama.  I am working my way through them, too.  Well, this post is about the fourth niyama or rule, observance, spiritual practice.  It is svadhyaya – study of self.

Dance Exercise, Nia, Nia in the City of San Jose, Nia classes in the South Bay, Nia Teacher, Nia Class, San Jose Nia, Nia San Jose, Nia workout, Nia, Gentle Yoga, Group Ex classes, YMCA, Zumba, PiYo, Nia Technique, SJ City Fit, SJCityFitT.K.V. Desikachar’s The Heart of Yoga states that svadhyaya means to get close to yourself or study yourself.  Sva = “self” or “belonging to me” / Adhyaya = “inquiry” or “examination” . . . so self inquiry, self examination.

One can study or examine oneself for various reasons.  One way many are probably familiar with is eating . . . you have probably heard the terms “emotional eater”, “stress eater”, “bored eater” and the idea is to stop and think – examine when you eat so you can identify if you are one of these types of eaters.  These labels could be applied to many things . . . drinker . . . fighter . . . .abuser . . . “neglector” . . . cleaner . . . . smoker . . . whatever the situation, the study has to be done first in order for the behavior to be altered.  WHY is it you are doing what you are doing?  What is it that causes you to do what you do?  With that type of knowledge of self then steps can be taken to change.

A lot of our behaviors are habits and sometimes just acknowledging that and applying a little bit of mindfulness we can change the habit.

If you want to think about svadhyaya in relationship to “on the mat”, the actual practice of the third limb of yoga, the asana, then it can be applied in the sense that it is all about you when you are on the mat.  There is no competition between the person on the mat next to you.  Or you having to do something in order to please or impress the teacher.  It is all about you and what is going on with you at that particular mat time.  This is a great time to practice svadhyaya.  It is when you get to stop all the other thinking and think about things like how your foot is connected to the earth.  It is your whole foot or just the edge?  Are you using the muscles necessary to make certain that it is the whole foot.  Are your shoulders down?  Is your chest open?  Is your spine long?  Is your stance too wide?  Can you tweak your arm/leg/head just a little in order to invite in that sense of relaxed control?  Where you are not sinking into your joints hanging out in a pose, but using your muscles but not over using them?  Are you aware of the placement of your knee?  Are you focused on your breath?   If you study how each pose is sensed by your body it allows you to try to determine if you are in the pose correctly and allows you to get the most out of it.

With the study of self there is knowledge gained about self.  With the knowledge of self one can work to improve or enhance oneself.  With enhancement of self, the idea is that one moves closer to the divine.  Many think of the divine as different things.  But most people agree that we all have areas in which we could grow.  Most people agree there is always room for improvement.  It makes sense that we have to look in and examine, practice svadhaya, before we can change.  This is just one way – and a brief one at that – to look at svadhaya.

What do you think?  Do you think of svadhaya on the mat?

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Non-stealing, Got It, Right?

Posted by terrepruitt on February 19, 2016

The Eight Limbs of Yoga, two of which are yamas and niyamas, restraints and observances.  Yamas as ethical principles and niyams as spiritual practices.  The first yama being ahimsa – non-violence, the second being satay – truthfulness.  The third is asteya – non-stealing.  This one kinda lands like the non-violence one.  Seems pretty easy.  But then just like the non-violence yama, it has its in-between-the-lines and fine print.  Non-stealing can mean a lot of things.

In The Heart of Yoga T.K.V. Desikachar’s notes asteya as:

“Noncovetousness or the ability to resist a desire for that which does not belong to us.”

Oh.  A little different that just “non-stealing”.  It is going so far as to say we should not covet things that do not belong to us.  Uh, I think that adds a whole different spin to this yama.  I mean, I will go out on a limb and say most of us are not going to go out and STEAL our neighbor’s whatshehaveit, but we might WANT it.  We might even think about if we had one our self.  We might even imagine us having one and him not.  Or us all having one and using them together.  But we are coveting when we do that.  We are wanting that which is not ours.

He also notes:

“One who is trustworthy, because he does not covet what belongs to others, naturally has everyone’s confidence and everything is shared with him, however precious it might be.”

We can also be stealing other things.  If we are focusing our attention on wanting what is not ours we are “stealing” attention from what we do have.  Possibly from people and things that are deserving of our attention.

One of my teachers mentioned jealous as a cause for stealing.  Dominating someone’s time if we are jealous of attention they are giving to someone else.  She also compares greed to stealing because we are taking more than we need.  So sometimes asteya has a hint of non-hoarding, since some consider taking more than one needs a form of stealing.  It is being taken away from someone else that might need it and then kept and not used.  Some of this might be the more difficult stuff to work on.

But if we work on it we might feel more at peace.  I know that when I am not spending my time thinking about what I don’t have I have more time to enjoy what I do have.  And, as I said, that time is not “stolen” from what is present.

As I said when I started posting about the eight limbs and especially the yamas and the niyamas, they can get pretty deep.  They can be explored and examined at great length.  I am just barely introducing them.  Hopefully giving you something to think about.  I know they have me thinking.

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Ahimsa And Yourself

Posted by terrepruitt on February 5, 2016

Recently I posted a bit about the eight limbs of yoga.  Basically a list of the limbs and a sentence about each.  Then I followed up with a list of the yamas and niyamas which are the first two limbs of yoga.  I am sure each limb can and does have volumes written about them.  And I am sure that each of the yamas and niyamas have volumes written about them.  I thought I would just do a post on each yama and niyama.  I was taught the yamas are restraints or restrictions, while the niyamas are observances or rules.  Ethical principles and spiritual practices, respectively.  I mentioned one way to look at it is our attitudes toward our environment and our attitudes towards ourselves.  Well, this is a bit about Ahimsa.  A way to look at Ahimsa.  Not the only way, just one way.  And not even the entire way, just a bit.

Ahimsa is non-violence, non-harming, and/or non-injury.  Now for me, the first thing I think of is non-violence as a physical act.  I think of hitting, punching, stabbing, shooting – something physical and VIOLENT.  I don’t actually do any of those things.  So I think, “I’m good.”  I bet a lot of us are.  But then when I remember that the idea is to have it apply to our thoughts, our words, and our actions, I realize, “I’m not so ‘good'”.  How often do we say that all too common phrase, “I wanna kill . . .” or “I could kill for a . . . ” even though I never really would, am I practicing ahimsa when I say it?  I don’t think so.  I am not sure that this type of talk is not harmful.

Another way we can look at ahimsa is as compassion.  So if we are compassionate we are non-violent, non-harmful, and/or with not cause injury.  And this could be applied to ourselves.  Are we compassionate with ourselves?  Do we get down on ourselves when we don’t do as we expected?

An exercise I participated in recently had us examining how we practice ahimsa when it came to ourselves.  Ahimsa and our self on and off the yoga mat.  In regards to Ahimsa with myself off the mat I realized I say – to myself – I am stupid a lot.  Because of my habit of getting to bed so late the first think I think of on Monday morning is  “Oh, I’m so stupid.”  I think, “Every Sunday since you don’t have to teach on Mondays you stay up too late and then it is so difficult to get up on Monday.  And it sets the tone of being tired for the rest of the week.”  What about you?  Do you ever find yourself saying things not in keeping with ahimsa in regards to yourself?

On the mat or in any exercise situation, we could apply ahimsa.  It could be as simple as not being violent with oneself.  It could be as simple as not causing harm – don’t do anything that will harm you or cause you injury.  But sometimes it is the compassion that is the challenge.  The compassion that says, “You need to be gentle with your body today, right now.”  We so often have that other voice saying, “You are here, get the MOST out of your workout.  Work harder.  Burn more calories.”  Perhaps even chiding you for something you ate and so feeling like you were “bad” for eating something “bad” you have to punish yourself with a really hard workout.  That is not ahimsa from many angles.  Sometimes it is difficult to be compassionate with yourself on the mat or in a workout situation.

It could just be a matter of, as Aadil Palkhivala said, not pushing when we should be pulling back, not fighting when we need to surrender, not forcing our bodies to do things they are not yet ready to do. So sometimes it is not just “not doing” more, but surrendering or not fighting.

As with all the Yamas, there is a lot of room for me to improve in practicing them.  I am not posting about them because I have them all figured out and I practice them perfectly.  I am writing about them to help me remember them.  I think I have a lot to work on when it comes to ahimsa in thought and even words.

What about you?  Just in regards to Ahimsa towards yourself?  How are you with that?  How does it differ on and off the mat?

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