Sri Patanjali compiled a text now referred to as “the Yoga Sutras” around 2000 years ago. There are four books or sections to the Sutras and one of which, includes the Eight Limbs of Yoga. These outline philosophical wisdom that encourages us to find happiness and contentment not in the external world, but inside ourselves.
Limb one: “Yamas” – these are moral qualities are designed to help connect us with who we really are and to help us live a more fulfilling life.
“When we have a peaceful mind, a truthful heart, and a balanced body, we can more easily approach the stillness that expands our consciousness beyond daily reality. These directives safeguard our essential happiness.”
True Yoga, Jennie Lee
The directive I want to focus on today is “Aparigraha” which translated means Appreciation or Gratitude. Can positive thinking change our actual life? How does it affect my fitness journey? How is it related to living well and loving yourself?
The Power of Positive Thinking!
We often think of gratitude as something that you feel after you have received something but what if we decide to be grateful now for all that we already have? By initiating such thought, the brain feels that it has already received something and will feel a rush of positivity in response to the acknowledgement. By doing this, you have already increased what you have by adding to your happiness without adding anything of any material substance to your life. Only you decide upon how much you value yourself, and your life. The great news is that practicing certain attitudes can increase your capacity for positive thinking and consequently, positive action! “You have to believe to achieve” – one of the oldest fitness quotes around!
We know that often our thoughts are self-fulfilling, if you believe that you can’t change your eating habits and that you can’t lose weight, then you are likely to prove yourself right. If you believe that your life can be different and that your body will adapt accordingly, then it will happen. All change starts in the mind and if the mind is the catalyst for change then we have to look at the behaviour of the mind to ensure a positive environment for change.
Wave Goodbye to Fear
When we are in a positive place, we are less likely to be knocked off track. Instead, we see challenging situations as opportunities for growth. For example, if seeing your ex-husband with his new girlfriend normally has you bathing in an ice-cream tub whilst watching friends on repeat – if you can see how much you have in your life without him, then you can come home acknowledging that you are in different places and giving thanks to the newfound freedom and independence you know have whilst talking through any mixed feeling with you best pal or taking yourself on your favourite walk. How different these two stories are of the same life! From gratitude, comes value and from fear comes insecurity: both manifest very different behaviours and experiences of life.
Like all skills, the attitude of gratitude requires practice! We need to recognize when we are thinking and acting out of fear. For example, if you find yourself worrying about a deadline and “not having enough time” then you can proactively affirm the limitless nature of time. You get much more done being less stressed thinking “I have a whole hour” rather than stressing and thinking “I am never going to get this done.” Positive thinking not only changes your experience of situations but it increases your chances of actually doing what you set out to do – completing the 10k race or getting the three weekly workouts done!
Appreciate Your Body
No behaviour is more in line with the wellbeing of your body than those actions that come from love. Being grateful for your body and the gift of life means that you act in accordance with that – you respect what is good for it and what it needs. You aren’t eating vegetables because you have to or because you need the number of the scales to go down. You are eating vegetables because your body deserves to be nourished and you deserve to feel good! If you do not respect where you live and you do not put energy into maintaining its beautiful features then you can’t be surprised when all of a sudden the walls come down. If you want to be happy in your skin and you want to live a life without illness and pain then finding a good relationship with yourself is the seed from which all positive change grows.
You Are Enough!
Often, if we don’t focus on what we have then we focus on what we don’t have (something increasingly easy to do with social media displaying perfect lives!) This can evoke feelings of deficiency or inadequacy. These kind of emotions make humans feel vulnerable and uncomfortable and are often soothed with overeating, over-exercising or some other habit that numbs you sufficiently. It is often these habits that prohibit change for people – you can eat well all week but drowning your sorrows on a Saturday night with 6 pints of lager may sabotage your weight loss efforts! I used to binge eat and then afterwards, I would feel so awful, I would vow to be really strict with my diet which would inevitably lead to another binge days later. This yo-yo behaviour lead to frustration as my body wasn’t losing fat as I thought it ought to be. It was only when I realised that my body deserved a balanced diet and was good enough as it was that I stopped binging. This is when my body started actually responding to the training plan! If you know inside that you are enough then you don’t need to medicate with an excess of something.
Stress Impacts Your Fitness Journey
Being grateful for what you have a believing that you are enough means that you live your days less stressed! Stress is the biggest trigger for disease, discomfort and inflammation in the body. The key to being the best version of yourself is to take action to reduce all stressors in your life. This will result in a balanced body that can regulate your body processes including your weight. A balanced body will also respond promptly to exercise and training because it is well enough to make those strength gains and it doesn’t feel like it needs to retain the fat stores. The hormones that govern our physical body are triggered by the mind so it isn’t just spiritual stipulation that body change begins here, it is biology and science as we know it.
Happiness and Wellbeing Cannot be Separated
You cannot be well if you are not happy! Sounds obvious right? Although we in the western world see mental health and physical health as separate entities, we understand how they are closely connected and physical health will inevitably deteriorate if we aren’t in a good place mentally. Studying the philosophy and the backbone of yoga provides guidance for how we can increase our chances of positive mental health in our daily life. Even though, these texts were written thousands of years ago, they seem just as relevant today as they were then.
“Overcoming envy and fear, we cultivate appreciation and understand the true purpose of our life” Sutra ii:39 interpretation by Jennie Lee in her book True Yoga.
If you are interested in this topic and wish to learn more about the background of yoga then I would recommend this book for an accessible interpretation of them. Something else that really struck a chord with me is the documentary “HEAL” on Netflix so check that out if you want to hear and be inspired by some phenomenal stories.
Link to Program
The next yoga course – our (drum roll please!) Summer Party Yoga course is designed around this notion of gratitude and enriching our life through practicing it. Check out all the details here:
We only have three spaces left so book asap to avoid disappointment!
I hope to hear from you or see you on the mat soon,
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” I train with Victoria regularly and because she knows my strengths and weaknesses, I felt that she was able to focus on the parts of my body that needed it most. I am now 1 stone lighter, 20 times stronger and 100 times happier after 12 months with Free Spirit Fitness! “