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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A raw dessert recipe without nuts - allergen free!

The raw food movement is taking the world by storm, yet it’s leaving some of us out: what about those with nut allergies? Almost all raw desserts contain copious amounts of nuts and dried fruit to replace traditional baking ingredients such as eggs and sugar. Nuts are a fantastic source of good fats (e.g. Omega-3 fatty acids) and dried fruit provides phytonutrients and energy, but it does leave those less tolerant or even allergic in need of an alternative. Not only this, incidents reported in the media are raising the question in the food industry “what can we use instead of nuts and seeds to keep our customers safe?” Admittedly this only effects a minority, but when it comes to life or death it is simply not worth the risk of a single nut.

Creative Nature Superfoods launched “free-from” snacking in the raw food market. In a world where health food seems to be the new processed food, Creative Nature focuses on healthy eating authentically.

Read on for how I’m using them in my raw desserts!

Creative Nature Superfoods Bars raw nut-free dairy-free

RASPBERRY COCONUT CHEESECAKE

BASE INGREDIENTS:

5 Goji Bars from Creative Nature Superfoods

1 tsp beetroot powder

2 Medjool dates, soaked 15 mins in water and drained

1 tbsp desiccated coconut

CHEESECAKE FILLING:

100ml coconut oil

1 tin coconut milk

200g raspberries, fresh or frozen

25g xylitol

TOPPING: fresh raspberries

  1. Pulse all BASE INGREDIENTS in food processor until a dough forms.

  2. Press dough into a silicon mould, or cake tin double-lined with cling film.

  3. Blend CHEESECAKE FILLING ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth.

  4. Pour cheesecake filling over base and leave to set in fridge or freezer.

  5. Decorate with fresh raspberries.

Raspberry Coconut Cheesecake nut-free gluten-free dairy free

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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How Rose can literally make your life better

Rose - the scientific reason you deserve a bouquet from your beloved

Rose petals - the scientific reason you deserve a bouquet from your beloved

Rose petals - the scientific reason you deserve a bouquet from your beloved

ROSE PETALS FOR YOUR PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL WELLNESS

I love using Rose! A few drops of rose oil on my yoga mat, to scattering rose petals over my desserts, and occasionally in the bath tub! There is something about using Rose that instantly makes me feel warm, comforted, and content. If I am experiencing any sense of anxiety, insecurity or self-doubt, rose brings me back to my centre, my femininity, my strength. It’s a way of making me feel indulgent without cracking open the Milk Tray!!

STRESS SUPPORT: ROSE HELPS STRESS-FILLED CRAVINGS DISAPPEAR

The aroma of roses can melt away our stress and tension, and is immediately uplifting. Do you think it’s coincidence that the rose is harnessed as a gift to console grief or adorn romantic interests? Traditionally, the aromatic oils from rose petals appeal to all the senses, not just smell: rose is cooling, and ingesting rose cannot only calm those very hot type-A personalities, but also has been proven to increase sexual function in both men and women (Farnia et. al., 2015). How does it do this? Rose has an effect that balances stress and emotional hormones, calming down the nervous system and allowing the rest of your hormones to work in sync. Rose petal tea is great for reducing stress levels after a long day, as well as helping to induce sleep if you struggle to wind down.

ANTIMICROBIAL

You might have heard that bouquets were traditionally used to cover up bad odour. Along with other aromatic plants, rose prevents the spreading of microbes. Try rose water mixed with a saline solution for infected eyewashes. A cup of warm rose tea is packed with Vitamin C that will fight infection, help improve immunity and safeguard you from colds and infections. Drink it as a tea to provide relief from a runny nose and cold. Have it cold to alleviate a sore throat. Rose is also an effective anti-allergen: use your cold rose water home-brew for mild sunburn, rashes and allergies.

YOUR SKIN + BEAUTY

Rose is tightening and toning for the skin, and even proven to help alleviate canker sores and other inflammatory breakouts from head to toe. Rose petals are rich with antiseptic, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. Its antioxidative properties make it an ideal home cure for various skin conditions, including acne. Read on to make a rose water that you can use orally or topically for your skin. Drinking rose water or washing your face with this will help lock in moisture to keep your skin soft ad hydrated. Rose’s antioxidant properties (it’s packed with vitamin A and Vitamin E) help clear blemishes, leaving you with a softer, smoother and more radiant younger-looking skin. Rose’s antioxidant effect reduces the effect of free radicals which damage skin, which will delay ageing. It is effective at reducing dark circles too.

ROSE FOR HORMONAL HEALTH

Rose petals can work in an adaptogenic way as far as our health is concerned - they have been show to both help reverse menorrhagia (abnormally heavy bleeding) as well as act as a styptic. It has been used historically by midwives. So be careful! Rose’s power on the female reproductive system varies from person to person. Two cups of warm tea with black pepper (which acts as a synergen) and honey is said to help decongest blood flow and reduce pain. It’s also a good home remedy for irregular periods.

NUTRITION + DIGESTION

Rose’s bright hue is indicative of the presence of phytonutrients, like antioxidants, carotenoids, anthocyanins, and bioflavonoids. Scatter a few dried rose petals on your desserts, cereals and in tea! Rose contains organic acids such as citric, malic acid and pectin- these are known to boost the digestive power of the body. A stronger digestive system makes for a safer gastrointestinal tract, more equipped to fight against diseases and infections. It also helps to expel waste more efficiently, nourishes gastric mucosa (lining of the gut walls) and sets a stronger foundation for the growth of good bacteria in your gut. As rose is a natural laxative, it is less invasive than over-the-counter drugs or something stronger like Senna. Again, Rose Tea has an adaptogenic response as it can alleviate not only constipation, but also diarrhoea and dysentery.Drinking Rose water regularly is also known to alleviate urinary tract infections.

WEIGHT MANAGEMENT

Replace your midday snacks with a hot rose tea twice daily. This zero calorie drink is something akin to green tea, will a lesser stimulative effect. It will calm down hunger pangs and as it helps control cravings you can move forward in your fat loss journey.


ROSE RECIPES

Rose Water - face wash, eye wash or mouthwash, antimicrobial gargle, sunburn soother

Crush rose petals before adding to hot water. Brew for 5-15 minutes.Drink immediately or allow to cool before applying topically to the skin.

Rose + Pistachio Granola

½ cup Tahini, ⅓ cup maple syrup, 1 tsp Vanilla pods or powder, ½ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp sea salt, 2 cups oats, 1 cup pistachios, Rose petals, 1 tbsp Matcha @omgmatchatea - this is the one I use, took me ages to find a Matcha I actually LIKED!

Preheat oven to 180C.

In a large bowl, combine maple syrup, sea salt, vanilla, cinnamon, matcha and tahini. Stir well.

Stir in oats and pistachios.

Spread out thinly and evenly onto a lined baking sheet, pressing the mixture together.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, then remove from oven to flip.

Bake for another 5-10 minutes.

Shake and stir granola a little in between baking.

Allow granola to cool, then toss with dried rose petals.

If you fancy giving Rose a try, I buy mine from here

Yours always,

Victoria x