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Ahimsa

Embrace yourself and others with love and respect


Ahimsa is the guiding light of all the Yamas, which asks us to live in our true nature. Above all, this first tenet is about compassion. It reminds us that if we are not compassionate toward ourselves, then it is not possible to have true compassion for others.

After my injury, I felt slow, stupid, inhibited, and constantly confused. I didn’t understand who I was without my strong memory, confidence, and sense of the world, and I berated myself every chance I got. I wasn’t gentle. I wasn’t kind. And, my thoughts were often abusive. In trying to understand my injury and find resilience, I had also declared war on myself with unattainable expectations and comparisons to who I was before. I wanted to get better immediately. And, was consistently hard on myself when I didn’t.

Loving kindness starts in our own hearts, and is an opportunity we are given every time we look in the mirror, with each step we take forward, and with every breath we take. Each breath is an invitation to practice Ahimsa. Every moment offers a chance to shower ourselves with love. Healing happens when we provide a loving container for it.

Wrap yourself in Ahimsa:

  • Take a seated position, finding a tall spine.
  • Close your eyes.
  • As you inhale, open your arms wide out to the sides, pulling your shoulders back, broadening across your chest, and slightly lifting your chin.
  • As you exhale, bring your arms in, giving yourself a big hug as you round your spine and tuck your chin.
  • Repeat these movements linked with your inhales and exhales 5 more times. Alternate the arm that is on top each time you hug yourself.
  • Come to stillness with your thumbs linked, the palms of your hands on your chest, and your fingers spread wide.
  • End this short practice by saying something kind to yourself.

Satya

FOLLOW YOUR TRUTH


Listening to your own truth is the ultimate practice of self-care. In turning inward, you tune into your inner truth, and in doing so, you honor yourself and your wholeness. For me, experiencing my truth is about being present in my body and mindful of each moment.

After my injury, I found myself on a very different pathway in understanding who I once was and how to approach each day. I struggled with my transformed brain and attempted to carry on daily activities as I always had, but everything was foreign. I was constantly lost, even in my own home. I struggled with word finding and memory, two things I relied on heavily in my professions of teaching and writing. I was an instructor who forgot the question that was asked before it was even finished, and a writer who was lost for words and often couldn’t finish a sentence.

Brain injury is life-changing, and often we come out very different than we were before. I was able to only truly start healing when I found ways to stay true to myself in each moment, understanding that everything is in flux. I am slowly writing and teaching again, but my process, pace, and the way I prepare has changed.

Here are some ways to bring Satya into your healing process and find your inner truth:

  • Acknowledge all of your accomplishments, no matter how small. Remember that there are no small things on your journey.
  • Be truthful with yourself by acknowledging what you can and cannot do in this moment.
  • This moment is key. Everything is temporary. Everything transitions and transforms. Be present for yourself in the journey you are going through. It won’t be the same next week or next year.
  • What makes you feel good? Do that. Remember to stay in the present. Do what nourishes you now, not what fed you before, because it may be different.
  • Be true to your healing process, and what you need. Use meditation as a time to settle your thoughts, find stillness, and inquire within to access your truth.

 

 

 

 

 

Asteya

Be generous and honest in your actions and speech

Asteya teaches us to be generous and honest with ourselves and those around us. It is often translated as ‘nonstealing,’ and is an opportunity for us to claim our differences, live rooted in mindfulness practices, and not rob ourselves of joy. Here are my favorite ways to practice this yoga tenant:

Engage with the present moment: My brain can be a beehive of thoughts, many negative, buzzing so loudly I barely notice what I’m doing. This churning wheel of emotions is exhausting and depletes the precious energy I have. When I am frustrated about the past and worry about the future, I steal time from myself. Incorporate mindfulness meditation practices throughout your day to stay centered in the present and experience what each moment has to offer.

Encourage honesty in yourself: Over the course of my healing process, I’ve found many times where I was in complete denial. I ignored my injury and kept pushing myself to get back to ‘normal.’ Because of my fatigue, visual problems, and migraines, my speech therapist had me set a timer whenever I sat down at the computer. In the beginning this timer was five minutes, and then I would need a fifteen minute or more break. I often ignored the timer, frustrated by its constraint and kept working. However, by ignoring it, I pushed myself into such severe pain and fatigue I’d spend days recovering. By not being honest with myself that I needed to slow down and take breaks for my brain to start repairing and get the rest it needed, I cheated myself. Be honest with yourself and those around you about what you are able to do in each moment.

Redefine your story with generosity and honesty: We choose the stories we tell ourselves. By redefining our narrative in a positive light, we expand our capacity to find resilience, and live in the beauty of who we are. My story was one of who I was before, who my friends thought I still was, and it focused on what I had lost. Here’s how I’ve rewritten it: I am mindful, content, and in tune with my body. It was challenging at first, but the more I repeated this narrative, the more it became a habit. And, now I look at the many blessings I have and things that I have learned living with this injury: I take good care of myself, I’m more gentle with myself, I dwell in the present moment as much as I can which is where happiness resides, and I enjoy celebrating everything I do on a daily basis.

What is your narrative? How are you telling your story? Take a moment to practice the art of retelling. Don’t steal precious moments from yourself, instead tell your story in a way that gives you life and energy.

Brahmacharya

LIVE IN PURE POTENTIAL THROUGH BALANCE AND MODERATION


Tune into your body to listen to what you need. Bramacharya teaches us that when we live in balance and moderation we have full access to our potential and our vital life force. My gentle yoga and mindfulness based stress reduction practices were turning points for me because they helped me develop the tools to bring myself back into balance when it was so easy to find myself in a spiral of overwhelm.

Here are some tips for bring Bramacharya, or balance, into your life:

  • Reward yourself with a regular yoga practice (link to LYB’s yoga videos). Connecting your body and breath is one of the most balancing and healing gifts you can give yourself.
  • Incorporate meditation into your daily life (link to LYB’s meditation library) to clear yourself of distractions, increase your focus, clarity, memory, and creativity, and to lower your stress.
  • See resting, relaxation and storing your energy as an accomplishment. Use this time to really shut your mind off—the world is a cognitive place, don’t discount all that you do throughout the day.
  • Give yourself rewards every day. Make time for fun and your favorite things. Having a cup of tea in the garden, spending time in nature, resting in a restorative yoga pose like reclined bound angle with a hot pack over my eyes, and journaling are my go-tos. What are yours?
  • Eat a diet rich in superpower brain foods like blueberries, pomegranates, and coconut oil.
  • Use your daily activities like exercise or cooking as opportunities to practice mindfulness. Every breath you take gives you an opportunity to begin again and be present.
  • Practice visualizing your own strength, energy, diminished pain, and healing. Studies have shown that visualization can be just as powerful as actually doing the real thing. If you can’t do your yoga practice one day, try imagining your body going through the movements as you breathe.
  • Know that you are ahead of the game. Because of your injury you have been forced to form new habits, and live the healthiest life possible. People don’t change habits until they have to. I know that the things my injury forced me to change have taught me tools to deal with stress, to listen to my body, to take breaks, and to be healthier.
  • Remember that there is always a way out. When you start to get frustrated, step away. Practice yoga, take a walk, sing, dance—anything to change your perspective.

 

 

 

Aparigraha

Become aware of abundance in your life, finding fulfillment in the present moment


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I teach students in my yoga and creativity classes that the concept of Aparigraha is the key to living an abundant and creative life. When we let go, creative energy and inspiration have room to flow. Think of it like floating—if you grasp violently at the water, you will sink, but if you relax and let go, your body will become buoyant, rising and falling with the waves.

Instead of grasping for the ability to do more, I work on celebrating what I am able to do each day, and know that every day will be different. The things that we grasp for and hold onto don’t belong to us anyway. The only thing that we have is our breath and heartbeat to anchor us to the present moment. And the present moment is full of possibility because it’s not scarred by the past or weighed down by worries of the future. It just is. In the present moment we can become aware of our absolute wholeness and be fulfilled by the abundance in our life.

Try redefining success. Look at the smallest accomplishments as cause for celebration. One of my good friends helped me celebrate writing a sentence when I first starting my writing practice again, and then a paragraph. Each of these was milestones. Then, redefine how you look at failure, looking instead at each time you ‘fail’ as a success too. When things don’t go perfect, it just means you are piecing the puzzle of your life back together and it’s hard work. Each failure moves you forward on your healing path, builds resiliency, and teaches you new ways to approach your life. We need to fail in order to succeed.

As I write this post, I have my timer set—in a few minutes, I’ll make a note of where I am, close the screen and step away. I’ll treat myself to a dark, quiet area, where I can put a microwavable heat pack on my eyes and rest in a restorative yoga pose such as reclined bound angle, which is amazing for helping headaches. In doing this, I give back to myself, fill my well, and find fulfillment in just being human. In these moments, I am content with the rising and falling of my stomach and the thrumming of my heartbeat. Instead of focusing on everything that is going wrong, bring your awareness to the hundreds of things that are still going right with your body in every moment.