Social isolation is challenging for all of us and if you’re even just a little conscious of the on goings of your mind, then you’ll know that regardless of each day feeling like groundhog day, the mind is in constant flux.
The challenge being that your surroundings and daily routine is likely to be in the confines of your home but this doesn’t stop the mind from meandering into memories, wavering from moment to moment and flittering into the future, backward somersaulting into the past and dipping occasionally into the present. Yes we are more than just the mind, but in these challenging times it’s easy for our instinctual body and nervous system to be triggered by the stress response of fight, flight or freeze when our life or livelihood is threatened and especially when change occurs that is out of our control.
So what can we do to not get stuck in a repetitive stressful and anxious rut of sitting on the same couch, eating the same food and seeing the same view everyday while trying to make the most out of this current state we collectively find ourselves in?
I’m not talking about up leveling your business, learning a new language or skill or even being hyper productive. I’m talking about a super practical approach by drawing upon the wisdom and inspiration from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
Just briefly, if you’re not familiar with the Yamas and Niyamas, they are seen as moral codes for right living based on Patanjali’s sutras. They form a foundation to assist in cultivating a more present and aware state of being. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are a collection of Sanskrit sutras or aphorisms on the theory and practice of yoga that was compiled somewhere between 200 BCE to 400 CE.
This blog post will focus specifically on the five Yamas that broadly translate as ethical discipline or moral vow. According to Patanjali, these vows are completely universal, no matter who you are or where you come from, your current situation or where you’re heading. These Yamas can act as a guide towards practices for the world around us and a guide for how to act towards ourselves.
Here’s my personal translation of the Yamas to help support your physical, spiritual and mental state of wellbeing in todays world in relation to self-care.
Ahimsa / Non-harming in thought, word and deed
Is your immediate family or housemates annoying you after weeks of spending almost every waking hour with them? This gives a great opportunity to practice compassion, patience and Ahimsa when conversing and interacting with them, creating a more peaceful and calm environment at home. How about your inner narrative? Are you able to switch your inner dialogue to be more loving and caring towards yourself? During these stressful times its super easy to be hard on yourself and expect so much more than perhaps you’re energetically / mentally / emotionally capable of, so please be kind and gentle on yourself and those around you.
Satya / Truthfulness
I see this as honouring and listening to the wisdom of your body. We can not be productive or proactive all of the time so try and take the truthful approach and only do what feels good in your body and really rest when you need too. Similarly, knowing when your lack of action has been excessive and it’s time to get up and move to get your energy going. Let’s practice living and listening to our inner truth each day.
Asteya / Non-stealing
Beyond the physical, the craving for external things to bring satisfaction is also an act of stealing. Whether it stems from the feeling of unworthiness, desire or incompleteness, it basically all comes back to feeling like you’re missing something. It can show up in different ways, for instance it might drive you to pushing yourself beyond a sustainable yoga practice to achieve or attain a certain pose. If you’re struggling with Asteya you could try cultivating the energy of Abundance by repeating this affirmation “I am living my life in a state of complete abundance”or you could connect with the Hindu Goddess of Abundance Lakshmi by chanting “Om Shrim Maha Lakshmiyei Swaha” and see how your mindset and life changes.
Brahmacharya / Celibacy or right use of energy
During this time of self-isolation have you been binge watching Netflix and catching up on all the series on your list? How many times have you stayed up until after midnight urged on by the need to see what happens in the next episode or season? If yes, now is the time to practice Brahmacharya and chose wisely how and where you channel your energy and precious time!
Aparigraha / Non-greed or non-hoarding
With the extra time you may have perhaps its time to address your belongings in storage that haven’t seen the light of day in years. What about the clothes in your closet that don’t fit you and your style anymore? Practicing Aparigraha can be very humbling when doing your essential shopping – does your household really need the 48 rolls of toilet paper, 50 cans of tinned tomatoes and 30 bags of pasta? Yes you are taking care of your basic needs but there’s no need to over-do it resulting in others missing out. Remember we are all in this together so now is not a time to be greedy.
So this was my personal translation on Patanjali’s yoga sutras in relation to self-care in today’s world. I hope that you found it inspiring and informative just as I did writing it. I would love to hear what your thoughts are, so feel free to comment below and share with your community if you think they’d benefit from this blog post too. Part two which is about the Niyamas (positive responsibilities or observances) can be read here.