January- the One month- is prime time for setting intentions for the year ahead of us. Whilst the world feels frozen still all around us, we can be busy burying seeds of intention deep into our psyches, trusting that they will shoot and flower with the returning Sun. The big question is, of course, what is my intention? What do I want for the year ahead? If I could set a wish for 2016, what would it be? A Path to Balance In reflecting on this question, it may be helpful to explore a model from the Sivanada school of Yoga. The aim of yoga is to bring union between breath, body and mind: we make space in the body-mind to allow for the new to come in. We release the stagnant and the toxic. We open ourselves to potentiality; to the possibility of personal evolution. We learn to breathe. We learn to listen. We learn to observe. We go beyond our limitations with self-compassion and kindness. The teachings of yoga are complex but can be beautifully summarised in the Sivananda school’s theoretical model which serves as a blueprint for the yogic life. It is called the Five Points or Pillars of Yoga.
- Right Exercise (asanas): this is the regular practice of yoga postures (asanas)- and other forms of exercise- to improve circulation and flexibility. Remember, a flexible body is a flexible mind and prepares us for life’s inevitable storms.
- Right Breathing (pranayama): developing an awareness of our breathing throughout the day and working towards deep, yogic breathing to relieve stress and fatigue. As we train the breath, the mind follows as if a child taking the hand of the parent.
- Right Thinking (dhyana): What we think, we become. Right thinking is the practice of focusing the mind which, in turn, calms the mind and eliminates negativity. This is meditation and positive thinking.
- Right Nutrition: this means becoming aware of the sacred fuel we put into our body. We develop a conscious relationship with our food and a mindfulness of how we eat it. We beocme aware of how food affects our emotions.
- Right Relaxation: this means that we take the time out that we need to rest the body, the mind and the spirit. Relaxation balances out the busy ‘solar’ doing-ness of our lives as we invite in a gentle ‘lunar’ energy to calm and restore.