Take a moment to think about your day-to-day experience. Does any part of your day include ritual? Ritual is basically an act or series of acts repeated to achieve a desired purpose. Many don’t realize how much of our day does involve ritual; in fact, most rituals become ingrained in our daily routine by accident. For example, ask yourself some questions about your morning routine: do you wake up and open your window shades right away to let in sunlight? Do you brush your teeth before you head out the door? Do you start your day with your morning coffee? Do you log right on to the Internet and check your emails or check Facebook? When you come home at night, do you put on your sneakers and head out for a run before dinner? If any of these actions, or if some others, sound familiar, you are engaged in ritual.
Why not make yoga a part of your daily ritual? Or why not groom a ritual that lends to some higher purpose? One of the great things about yoga is that it involves much more than just the asanas (the yoga poses). And maybe when you think of yoga asanas or getting to a yoga class, you might argue that you don’t have the time in the day to practice. Although the asanas are important, there is much more to practicing a yoga lifestyle that takes little time, and can become part of your daily ritual.
Stemming from ancient yogi tradition, there are 8 Limbs of Yoga: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. The first two limbs of yoga, yama and niyama, are the focus here.
Patanjali described the yamas as willful and joyful restraint we place on ourselves that lead us to the path of enlightenment. The yamas are not about deprivation; instead, they are focused rituals that allow us to center on being kind to others and to ourselves. For example, one of the yamas is ahimsa, which means not to hurt yourself or other people. This also does not mean that we should focus just on hurting oneself or others physically, but it means also considering what hurtful things you might say to yourself daily. Do you say that you’re not good enough or not capable? Ahimsa asks us to treat ourselves and others with compassion, so where in your daily activities can you bring compassion to yourself or devote time for yourself? How can you turn this into a ritual, something you can practice daily or weekly?
Niyama literally means positive duties or observances. Niyamas point to those activities in our daily lives that contribute to healthy living. One of the niyamas, Svadhyaya, means self-study. It literally means to “meditate on the self.” Could you begin your study of Svadhyaya by beginning each day with inspired readings or acts of kindness toward yourself?
You can create the space in your life for yoga, even if it's not on the mat.