The teachings of yoga give us a roadmap for connecting to ourselves so that we can live a more peaceful life and in turn we can then connect to others with compassion, kindness and no judgment. The best way to connect our body, mind and spirit is with our breath. Connection is another one of our core values at Live and Breathe and is foundation for all of our classes.
At Live and Breathe Yoga we value connection by:
- Sharing our passion for yoga as a practice with no fear of competition
- Knowing each student by name and making them feel welcome and connected to the teacher
- Using positive language and respectful encouragement in all our classes
- Writing about our experiences within the yoga practice and sharing with our community through our newsletter, blog and social media
- Support each other in the team through friendship and sharing knowledge
- Being honest and showing our personalities and also our students personalities (highlighting our yogi of the month)
- Supporting community, local business and charity
- Volunteering at Sundalah Sunday, Global Mala and YTFS support via sponsorships and volunteer work.
To understand how we work, what sets us off, what lights us up, what calms us down is where we need to start when working on connection. Understanding our values, knowing our limits so that we can set boundaries and studying our tendencies and habitual patterns can highlight areas of our life that need more or less attention. By practicing yoga we cultivate awareness and with swadyaya or self-study we can observe ourselves with curiosity instead of judgement.
Swadyaya means self study and is one of the niyamas within ashtanga yoga’s 8 limbs. As yogi’s we are encouraged to reflect on the impact our thoughts, words and actions have on ourselves and on others around us. As we practice mindful movement coordinating with the breath we build awareness – we notice our body, our breath and our thoughts – all part of self-reflection. In doing so we observe ourselves more honestly and with less criticism and we see ourselves as who we really are, not what we think we are or what we ought to be. We start getting clear about how we want to live our life and the taking action to make those dreams come true.
Once we can connect within and really know ourselves we can then be in a good place to connect with others. I know that when I am doing all the things I need to feel happy and healthy within myself, I am a much better Mum, wife, sister, daughter and friend. We need to start taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions and the impact we have on the world around us. Recently when I was practicing in Tokyo with Sharath he said something I found really interesting during conference. He said that we need to learn how to manage ourselves. And I realised that yoga has helped me to do just that – to manage myself! After many years of self enquiry I’ve come to uncover, learn and also unlearn many things about myself and in doing so it has helped me in all my other relationships.
The only way we can manage ourselves is to understand ourselves first. Reflecting on our behaviour, using the lessons from our mat to highlight the way we do things off the mat can be illuminating. Maybe we can get our leg behind our head, or lift up and jumpback, or do a handstand but if we take out our stress on our family or are not truthful with our friends or always late and stealing other people’s time, and are oblivious to the effects, then really what is the point? By realising the impact of what we think, say and do on our world, and taking responsibility for that, well that’s where the transformation begins!
When something happens in my life and I need to make a big decision or work on a project I find really challenging, I usually bury my head in the sand and do everything else instead, hoping it will just go away. I run away from it as fast as I can. I only realised this because I do the same when I get to a difficult posture. There is one posture in intermediate series that I have so much trouble with that I really really dislike it. And you know how I used to deal with it? By not working on it and only doing it halfheartedly, making excuses to myself and moving on as quickly as possible. How silly is that! I have finished intermediate series now except for this one pesky posture which I’ve only been able to do well a handful of times and I know the only way I will be able to do it better is if I actually practice it…even if it’s really messy and hard. This is why ashtanga yoga is so transformative. The set sequence forces us to work on the postures we don’t like and can’t do easily. We learn so much more when we work on the postures we can’t do and notice our reactions to those postures than when we just work on the ones we can do and like. This self-study or Svadyaya is one of the most powerful parts and benefits a yoga practice gives us.
Connection has a ripple effect… first we connect to ourselves and then with our family and friends, then to the community and out to the environment.
Connect with yourself
- Svadyaya – observe your thoughts, word and actions and how they impact yourself and others. Journal about your interactions with each person each day and notice any patterns. Take responsibility for your role in how you shape your world,
- Vinyasa – when practicing yoga, focus more on how you move from posture to posture, using your breath, instead of getting caught up within each individual posture. Explore your practice as a whole and not just lots of separate parts. Notice your breath when you are off your mat too – how does it change during day?
- Understand your fascia – our bodies are connected by a big 3D web of connective tissue called fascia and it’s one of the things our practice works on opening up. Harry’s life’s work has been about understanding and unraveling fascia using myo-facial release techniques. I’ve just had a total overhaul with him and you can read about my experience here and read more about how Harry connect the dots within your whole body here.
Connect with your family and friends
- You can have the most amazing yoga practice but if you can’t be nice to your family, friends, colleagues then there’s something not right. During a conversation don’t listen to respond, listen to just listen. Don’t bore people with your latest success, complaint, or drama – instead ask someone about what’s going on with them…it’s far more interesting!
- Everyone is doing their best with what they have – and most of the time we have no idea what is going on for most people. Have compassion and try not to judge others and always choose kindness.
Connect with the lineage and the ashtanga community
- We really are so fortunate to be part of the ashtanga yoga community. It’s amazingly supportive and it blows me away every time I connect back into it. Being in Tokyo and sharing the practice with so many people from all over the world was so special and I am so grateful for the lineage that connects us all. If you’re ever out of town for work or holiday, seek out an ashtanga yoga studio and connect with the broader ashtanga community.
Connect with the community
- The only way a community can be great is by the involvement of it’s people. There are countless organisations out there all trying to make the local community a better place for all. Be of service and share your time or expertise with a movement that matters to you and help make your community great!
- Yoga Tools for Schools is a Townsville based not for profit and charity working on getting yoga into education to help teachers and students to be more connected, healthy and relaxed. You can become a member or volunteer or even attend the annual fundraiser dinner dance (best night of the year!) and connect with other yogis and have a really fun night out at the same time.
And because you know how I love a good list, here are a couple of quick ways to increase connection in your life:
- Say hello to the person on the yoga mat next you and introduce yourself
- Write a good review for a local business
- Let people into the lane when driving
- Pay it forward – buy a coffee anonymously for the person next in line, share your parking ticket with the the bext person if there is still time left on it
- Lend a hand – help out that struggling Mum on a plane, or elderly at the supermarket, help someone reverse out of the busy carpark
- Buy locally
- Meet face to face with friends – coffee/soiree
- Breathe – connect to the inner body
- Journal – reflect on your interactions with people that day
- Chanting the opening and closing mantra – connect to those before us
- Write a letter/card and send it snail mail
- Say thank you to those who made a difference in your life
- Volunteer your time/skills – YTFS
So now over to you. How are you going to make a connection to yourself, your family, friends, community the planet?