Ashtanga, The Eight Limbs of Yoga: Yamas and Niyamas

How two Yamas and Niyamas may be put into practice in word, thought and deed.

As long as we are turning towards our own heart, how can we be in the wrong direction? There is much more to Yoga than the physical practice - we know this. In the Eight Limbs of Yoga, before stepping into Asana, we have Patanjali’s Yamas and Niyamas. The yamas and the niyamas offer us an opportunity to turn inwards and practice what we realise outwardly. The yamas and the niyamas quite literally offer us a guideline to navigate real life and go beyond the unreal, beyond the emotions and that which is falsify what we think is our true life experience. The yamas and niyamas bring us closer to navigating a truer existence, to exist in and to experience the universe and our true selves. This is liberation. These “rules”, although might seem restrictive to some, offer us the truest freedom.

The first of Patanjali’s Yamas is Ahimsa: non-harming or non-violence in thought, word and deed towards ourselves and others. The Yamas are often considered as ‘restraints’. They are a guideline as to how we can interact with the outer world. Ahimsa , the first of the yamas, is probably the the most fundamental of all, and the core basis of yoga. To refrain from causing harm to any living creature in the world may seem obvious. It is not in our natural instinct to harm another human being, to inflict violence on any living creature. Though to consider the indirect harm we may cause to living creatures, human or otherwise, opens up a huge chasm for thought. What about the choices we make and their consequences? The vote we have with our forks as to whether an animal should be harmed for our pleasure/survival. If not in action, what about the harm we may cause in words to others, or even thoughts to ourselves?

Thoughts are like drops of water. When I think the same thoughts over and over again, I am creating this incredible body of water. First, I have a little puddle, then I may get a pond, and as I continue to think the thoughts over and over again, I have a lake, and finally an ocean.

Inner Wisdom, Louise Hay

To live with a sensitivity to all living things, our own selves, the beings we have not and might never meet but who are affected by the choices we make. To honour the power that we possess and the ripple effect of a single thought, word, act or deed. To acknowledge the power of a single thought or act with ahimsa in mind is the yogic path. It is because of and thanks to this that starting from a single thought, the yamas and niyamas are able to translate into our everyday lives as unique human beings. And like droplets each of us as human beings might cascade into a community that is one body, as it always has been: Ātman.

Ahimsa, too, might be applied to our yoga practice itself - navigating the fine line between practicing with an effort that challenges us but that does not cause harm (or other impure thoughts e.g. competition, which causes damage to ourselves if not others).

How do we practice Ahimsa in word, thought and deed?

Word: speaking kindly towards others and ourselves. You know the old saying, if you can’t say anything nice then do not say anything at all! In word, we might speak up for those who are being caused harm, for example children or those who are abused, for animals who have no voice, even for the boy at the back of class who is being picked on. The key is that we use our voices for those who do not have their own without violence, as sometimes in sticking up for others we can become violent ourselves.

Thought: catch yourself when you think a negative thought. The more you catch it, the less you will do it. Be kind in thought to yourself and others. Think about how kind thoughts causing no harm might translate into action in the outer world.
Deed: practice non-violence outwardly, spread the message with your own example. Our behaviour in the outer world can cause a ripple-effect that others may follow. Choose foods which have caused no harm to animals and the humans who have produced it. Choose clothes that are ethically-sourced. Do the research!

The Niyamas offer us guidance in the personal: how we relate to ourselves. Ishvarapranidhana is the last of the five niyamas. It can open up differences of opinion as it literally translates as ‘surrender to the Lord God’. Can this not be interpreted as instruction to shift our perspective away from our selves, away from our egos, and the incessant obsession with the ‘I’? Instead we might dedicate our daily practice (in life, in yoga, in relationships) by surrendering to something other than our own self. There is something much more precious, more constant and more divine than ourselves. It need not be identified as a ‘God’ in the religious sense, but a higher Being, a higher collective that is far more important than the individual who is ego-driven, fear-driven, governed by unstable emotions and changing moods. There is something much much greater than us. This is what God, however we interpret him or it to be, reminds us. Surrender to this and we catch a glimpse of freedom. Freedom from the experiences, the feelings, the disappointments and even the joys, of ego-driven human life.

How do we practice Ishvarapranidhana in word, thought and deed?

Word: chanting mantra, prayer, withdrawing from uttering words which take us away from this practice.

Thought: surrendering thoughts which do not serve the greater purpose, whether these thoughts are those which push us to progress in our career for example (e.g. make more money that we do not need) or which detriment us.
Deed: chanting mantra, prayer, interaction with others in a way which surrenders to that which is greater.

Maha sadhana means Great Practice. With Asana, Pranayama, Meditation, as well as consistent practice of the Yamas and Niyamas, this practice will result in more control of the body and mind, as well as increased spiritual awareness. “The greatest teacher is within your heart” (Dharma Mittra). This teacher, ourselves, holds the answers to all of the questions that we already know, all of the teachings that we have forgotten, and the key to a freedom that we have always possessed. This is the practice that leads us back home.

Only a single thought can enter our mind at one time. If we have a positive thought, neither a negative nor a neutral thought will enter our mind. If we have a negative thought, neither a positive nor a neutral thought will enter our mind. If we have a neutral thought, neither a positive nor negative thought will enter our mind.

Excerpt from PiPo Source Code 072

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Lessons from Russia: Karelian Shungite

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Louis Pasteur said “We drink 85% of our diseases”. According to World Health Organisation statistics, more than 80% of all illnesses are either directly or indirectly connected with the consumption of polluted drinking-water. We might be taking more care of our health nowadays, but are our waters getting any cleaner?

Elite Shungite - perfect to filter your water

Elite Shungite - perfect to filter your water

The Ancient Healing Stone

Shungite is a mostly carbon mineral found exclusively in The Republic of Karelia (it’s in Russia, unless you knew that already). Shungite’s unique high-carbon composition enables it to cleanse water and even saturate it with elements that are beneficial to our health, such as anti-oxidative and antibacterial properties. The carbon nature of the stone and its porous structure gives it a filtering capacity, enabling shungite to hold up to 95% of pollutive elements including organic compounds, heavy metals, fluoride, chlorine, pesticides, radon and harmful microorganisms. When water is treated with shungite, the antioxidants it contains eliminate free radicals and other impurities in water, and the fullerenes it contains give it medicinal properties.

Springs and lakes near the sources of shungite are known to have had very pure water for centuries, and are considered sites of healing.

I don’t think it’s clear any more what is and isn’t safe to drink, and shungite is a brilliant way of purifying water in your own home.

More about Shungite

Shungite is a 2-billion year old stone which is predominantly found in the Russian region of Karelia in a village called Shunga. Shungite has anti-inflammatory properties, and can help reduce pain and stress. Shungite is a rich source of fullerenes and offers these health benefits:

  • energises, mineralises + enriches water with vitamins and antioxidants, making it perfect for daily washing

  • aids detoxification in the body

  • improves cell function

  • reduces inflammation

  • induces recovery and speeds up healing

  • improves overall immune system

  • conducts electricity

  • grounding stone, aids meditation + eases anxiety

  • induces positive energy

  • helps with focus

  • boosts mental health

  • assists spiritual growth

  • helps focus + meditate, aids in attaining a higher state of consciousness

  • helps negate radiation from electronic devices (EMF)

  • glowing skin and strong hair (cellular repair)

  • grounding + energising for those with stress and chronic fatigue

Some even apply shugite topically to skin to treat acne, spots, cuts and other skin-related problems. Drinking acidic shungite water helps to treat chronic respiratory issues, headaches, aches in joints and muscles as well as problems with the digestive system.

Shungite contains natural fullerenes. Firstly, they are considered to be the most powerful antioxidants or free-radicals catchers. To put it simply, they protect us from premature ageing, improve our skin and protect from other negative influence of radicals. Secondly, fullerenes tend to normalise cellular metabolism and increase cells’ resistance to external influence. They accelerate detoxification and slow down the growth of cancer cells. They work much like antioxidants found in Vitamin A and Vitamin C. The difference? These natural fullerenes have a stronger and longer-lasting effect in fighting against free radicals in the body, and shungite is the only natural source.

https://karelianheritage.com/

For 15% off your first order use code VICTORIA15

How to Make Shungite Water

1. Wash shungite stones to remove any dirt or post-production dust. 

2. Infuse 150 - 200g regular shungite stones or 50 - 70g elite shungite stones per 1L of water for two - three days. Shungite starts filtrating water within the first few hours, but the longer shungite has in the water, the more benefits you will receive by drinking it.

3. Clean and charge your stones regularly.

If you plan on buying Shungite to filter water, choose unpolished elite shungite nuggets over and above any Type II or III or polished stones because they contain more organic carbon. 

Take a Shungite Bath

Bathing in shungite water benefits your health, well-being, growth and recovery.

Infuse 400 - 500g shungite stones in warm bath water for 15-20 minutes. Then hop in!

Nina Kolesnikova, head of a sanatorium near Moscow, used shungite baths as a way to treat patients suffering with joint problems, hypertension and psoriasis. She found that the ailments of patients bathing for 10 - 15 minutes each day became more stable. Patients suffering from psoriasis and joint pain were treated with shungite paste to the affected areas and this saw a reduction in lesions and pain.

The Top 5 Ways to Wear Shungite

Here are my favourite ways to get the healing benefits from shungite’s healing and protective properties:

1) Pendants

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Shungite offers benefits not only to the physical body, but also to the subtle body (energy, the chakras). This grounding stone relates to the root chakra and offers us stability when we need it most. Shungite neutralises excess charge from the body, including negativity, and drains it into the ground. The healing power of shungite stone offers benefits to the cardiovascular system; it improves blood circulation, functioning of the immune and some other internal systems of your body. Our neck, ears and wrists are highly sensitive parts of our body with different bioactive spots. Wearing shungite as a piece of jewellery enhances the curative effect of the stone. Wear your stone as a pendant close to the throat and chest to offer your heart and thyroid gland much-needed support. Shungite jewellery is your must-have if you suffer from headaches, insomnia or anxiety.

2) Bracelets

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Some research has proven that shungite can be used to control hyperactivity in children by having them wear shungite as a bracelet (google Regina Martino to learn about shungite water in small doses). The wrist is a sensitive area which will respond well to the benefits offered by shungite since this area is so sensitive on a subtle level. Shungite’s effect on the body is amplified here, because the wrist is a major receptive area as it is traversed by many meridian lines. Similarly, shungite bracelets or belts could be worn by the elderly who experience pain due to arthritis or ageing. It’s also great for balancing energy when travelling on long journeys and boosting fatigue.

3) Rings

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Shungite as a ring stimulates the huge number of bioactive spots located in our hands and fingers. Shungite also has remarkable electricity-conducting abilities which makes it a great grounder. This can be used to help you focus when attempting to put all of your mental energy towards a specific goal. Whether it be for magic or meditation, shungite can be used to help drive you towards your desired goal or outcome.

It Keeps Negativity at Bay

Due to its deep black color, many believe that it has the ability to protect one from bad luck. It is said that the stone has the ability to shroud a person in darkness so that bad luck cannot find them. Moreover, it can help hold anything negative at bay, and counteract the shadow-self, the unconscious part of our ego that many identify as the dark side of our personality.

anyway, speaking of rings…

4) Mobile phone plate attach this to your phone for protection against electromagnetic radiation.

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The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a component of the World Health Organization (WHO), have not ruled out the negative effects of EMF and concede that EMFs are “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Shungite is believed to have the ability to absorb and completely neutralise dangerous frequencies from EMF radiation thanks to the fullerenes it contains. It works to negate the potential harm from devices such as microwaves, televisions, computers and cell phones. It’s scientifically proven that EMF and geopathic stress make the human body vibrate at higher frequencies than normal which can damage our immune systems, making us more sensitive to viruses, bacteria, parasites, environmental pollution, degenerative disease, the list goes on. Electromagnetic hypersensitivity compromises our energy levels and how we are able to function: we might face such problems as chronic fatigue, regular stress, decreased attention span, memory loss, depression, anxiety and insomnia. Moreover EMF and geopathic stress can cause more serious health problems such as increased blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar, and arthritis.

5) Mobile Phone Stand

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Sleep with your phone near the bed because you use it as an alarm? That’s around 8 hours (if you’re getting enough sleep that is) of exposure to potentially harmful cellphone radiation. This phone stand looks gorgeous and will absorb the EMF for you, so that your body doesn’t have to! Not quite ‘wearable’, but certainly indispensable.

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There are three types of Shungite:


Type I Shungite, or silver shungite: if you are considering taking Shungite seriously and to the next level, then do some research on Type 1 Shungite. This is Shungite in its purest form, considered a perfect natural healer and energy stabiliser. It contains 90 - 98% organic carbon which is what gives it its high energetic potential and will look black, shiny and a little silvery. It’s not cheap! It’s so fragile that it’s hard to shape into the pendants and rings you see pictured, and can be bought as small rocks or stones in their natural shape. Type I is the rarest form of shungite since it only makes up about 1% of all shungite that is found. Make sure you buy from a reputable supplier - Karelian Heritage is one of them.



Type II Shungite, or black shungite: contains 50 - 70% organic carbon. This is the most commonly found as it can be shaped into objects/pendants/rings most easily.

Type III Shungite: contains 30 - 50% organic carbon.

Is Shungite expensive?

The highest quality Shungite is only in the Zazhoginsky mine located in Republic of Karelia Russia. Shungite from other mines is cheaper, especially Shungite slate.

Where can I buy Karelian Shungite?

The best are from Karelian Heritage - their pendants are gorgeous and I trust their product. Straight from the source!

https://karelianheritage.com/

For 15% off your first order use code VICTORIA15

Is Body Image All About Mind Image?

Eight weeks ago I was asked to be a part of a project. This project offered me the opportunity to dress up in a vintage 1950s swimsuit, have my makeup done, and pose in an iconic luxury estate something akin to a Miami beach house in Oxfordshire. The catch? Well there was none really - I was working with a professional photographer and peers I consider friends yet I had no idea how uncomfortable I would feel until the moment I sat down by the pool in that gorgeous red vintage 1950s swimsuit at the time to pose. Yet not pose. And look cool, as well as perfect. This was the narrative in my mind.

Vikram Kushwah, incredibly talented fashion + art photographer, opens up the conversation about body image and does it with colour and integrity. His series ‘Women in Bathing Suits’ explores the subject of body image and diversity in the female form. In this series of portraits, the sitters - from various ethnic backgrounds and professions - shed light on how they perceive their bodies, as well as how the complexities of their form and/or societal ideas of beauty affect their psyches.

The photo was incredibly difficult to sit for - I felt self-conscious, awkward, self-conscious about my awkwardness!! It felt difficult to share this without berating the parts of myself I do not like.... which is ridiculous! Sharing my experience - as well as the series of photos Vikram took from the shoot - with my friends and peers gave me overwhelming insight and reassurance, that it’s not just me. I have read messages from both men and women who experience the same feelings of insecurity and self-beratement, equally without reason nor rationale. Here were my very honest thoughts about body image, and my reflections based on the responses that followed:

'A lot changes in the journey from how I see myself in the mirror to how I picture myself in my mind. Body image in my life has been something all-consuming. Sometimes I like what I see, but mostly I have berated my shape rather than celebrate it, the scars, the curves, lumps, blemishes, bumps. I don’t believe the problem is body image at all, it’s more “mind image”- the “not good enough” attitude that I think many of us women and men have adopted without respite.

Yet I do love my body. I am deeply grateful to be in this body. And I look after my body as best I can. I do criticise my body, most parts of it, regularly. Still, I know and love the body that is mine, and remind myself that this battle going on inside of me is happening in the minds of most of my peers, the strangers I pass on the street, even the models who walk into my yoga class. Yoga, dance and pranayama have helped me to be in my body, to let my mind go, and for a short moment that ridiculous concept “not good enough” is far, far away.'

~ Victoria Adams

As an aside, when Vikram asked me my swimsuit size, what I really wanted to say was

“could you order me 3 sizes in case it doesn’t fit me?”

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I can’t remember what I actually said. I should also say that of the photos taken I was at my most natural and “beautiful” as far as I’m concerned in one of the outtakes, laughing and having fun with my friend Julie. I remember the moment it was taken. In that moment there was no photographer (in my mind) and no self-judgement, only an opportunity to laugh and be myself with my dear friend. I am so grateful to have this photo: in it I do not see two beautiful girls in swimsuits, I see friendship.

I don’t know where in my lifetime it came from, but there is so much pressure to look “perfect”. I’m not sure I really know what perfect means, or even how I’d know if I got there. I have scrutinised my photograph. I have picked it - me - apart and then blurred it all back together again to see its beauty. I am sure that many of you will relate to this screening and scrutinising, whether we’re talking about professional pics or Facebook tags. We all pick at ourselves, man or woman. Critical over body, over decisions we have made in our past, over decisions we haven’t even made yet in our future.

Would you speak to the person sat next to you on the train in the same way that you speak to yourself? As my grandmother said, they’d give you a slap what for! Yet we deem it acceptable to self-flagellate ourselves as if we were our worst enemy? I have sat with circles of men and women, and seen them brought to tears at being told how beautiful they are in their entireties, not just their physicality. In their eyes I see them release years, often decades, of grief that has been buried, churned and recycled to the point that it has effectively become a trauma. This trauma that we have lived with, and continue to live with, as if it needn’t be dealt with or even spoken of. Why? Is it because we know it is a misplaced cause to put so much pressure on ourselves? Do we know on a gut level that, really, we are enough “just as we are”? I don’t know how to answer this.

All I know is that we are losing the opportunity to connect with others on an authentic level because we are so all-consumed by worry and fear that we are “not good enough” in the eyes of others. When actually some of us have failed to connect because the ones deeming us not good enough ares our own Selves.

Lose your story. Trust that you are enough, and that the love you convey to and for yourself can spread and inspire the same in others. Do not stress, or self-flagellate: for every 5 minutes you’re upset, it takes 8 hours to get out of your body’s stress response. And that’s not good for the wrinkles ;)

Every time you use your voice, it sends out a message to every cell in your body, as well as to the people around you. Be grateful for your body - it has gotten you this far. When you are having “one of those days” remind yourself that this fight going on inside of you is probably going on inside the man or woman you just passed on the street, or inside of your “perfect” best friend, who was too embarrassed to talk about it, or too busy to stop to notice and practice self-care and self-love. If the concept of body image is about how our mind perceives our body, can we change the narrative that has taken us out of our bodies? How do we get out of our heads? How do we stop being so hard on ourselves?

Maybe it’s as simple as reminding others and, in the moment we point out to another, we come to the realisation in ourselves: we are all good enough.

Vikram and @julieelagrace thank you for the beauty in your work and in your friendship. Check out www.vikramkushwah.com for more portraits of the beautiful and inspiring women who took part in the shoot.

Please share this post if you wish, I would love to know your thoughts on body image, mind image, and the constant chatter that goes on inside our heads. You can reach me @victoriaadams on Instagram.

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