There are eight limbs to the body of yoga or, eight aspects that address different parts of ourselves and our experience. As always in yoga, the limbs feed and effect each other. My darling departed friend Will would always say, “get in where you fit in.” While he was an eccentrically crass and hilarious pain in the ass, he was teaching yoga in that saying. The “get in where you fit in” philosophy applies all over yoga. You want a hot and vigorous asana experience; it is there for you. You prefer a more precise and contemplative physical practice; it is there for you. You want to meditate and study; that path is there for you too. Which ever face of yoga excites you, follow it. The reason this works is because one path will naturally open you up to other paths. Meditation will naturally get you ready for and curious about asana. Asana will prepare you for philosophy. It isn’t important to head into a yoga practice intending to devote your life to learning every aspect of yoga. There are no prerequisites for employing this system of yoga in your life. You don’t need to believe in a certain deity, or in the existence of any God at all. The 8 limbs of yoga can work in concert with any faith. Meaningful change originates from inside of us, it is not imposed from the outside. So, show up where you are curious, get in where you fit in, and trust that each aspect of yoga feeds and effects the other aspects. As T. K. V. Desikachar says, “We begin where we are and how we are, and whatever happens, happens.”
The eight limbs of yoga are thorough! They cover everything from how to be with ourselves and others to how to meditate. Some are super relatable and practical they come right into present day with no trip ups whatsoever. Others are more lofty and can feel daunting at first. Luckily we get to dive into the ones that excite us and know that we are growing our relationship with the others simultaneously. The eight limbs are a recipe for a life.
I’d like to go through each of the eight limbs here. I’ll do my best to make them accessible and relatable. I’ll likely go on and on about the aspects of each limb that speak most clearly to me right now, and I’ll trust that this process will grow my ability to hear their others aspects too.
Today I made a list of goals. I was taking a bath and the idea just hit me. Hit me with some urgency, “makealistofyourgoalsrightnow!” So I did. Some are practical – Acquire Health Insurance. Some are quaint – Call My Mama. Some of them seem small but in actuality are enormous- Dance In Public. Some are quite lofty – Quit Worrying About Looking Stupid And Take Gigantic Risks.
It all started a couple of weeks ago in Sally Carley’s Yoga for 50+ series which I assist her in and substitute teach when I am exceedingly lucky. It was the first class in the series and we were going around the room and introducing ourselves and what brought us to yoga. These students are so beautiful and they floor me with their insights on a regular basis. A man who wears his blue jeans to yoga class blurted out, “I just realized that this class in the only time that I focus on myself in a positive manner.” Another woman said, “I’m convinced that our job in life is to pick up all of the pieces of ourselves that we find as we go along our path and bring them back home.” I’m telling you… these beautiful creatures.
Sally, who is a person I so value and embodies a presence in the world that I aspire to, began to talk about being a person over 50 and looking back on all of the large and small choices that have informed your life; the one choice that brought you to Seattle, or that landed you in that career, or with that partner, or those children. I immediately thought, “Oh Sh@#, I’d better start making some choices!” I am not 50+, I am extremely-almost 30. I’ve started a few large ventures in my life and somehow haven’t quite been able to muster enough courage to let myself be as large as the ventures require that I be. Depending on the day and my proximity to grace I can see that as devastating failure or as something in the works which my view is not yet large enough to see entirely. Making choices even tiny choices, are like smoke signals you send to “the big match.com in the sky” as my mother would say. They translate as “Hey big guys, I’m here and I want to live on purpose! I’m not just being tossed around with the current. I intend to be fulfilled and inspired, and to manifest my inner being though my actions in this life!” Some choices will end up being temporary choices, and are just as important as the keepers because they keep you participating in the creation of your life and they add to your unique history.
A part of my bath today was about making a list of goals. Tonight I rolled out my mat and lit the candles on my alter. I set up my laptop because that is the kind of modern yogini I am. Through TED Talks I was linked to this commencement speech by Steve Jobs who passed away today. I listened as I practiced as a way of honoring his life and spirit and I dedicated my practice to him as a gift. As it turns out, it was Steve Jobs who gave the gift to me. A part of my practice tonight is writing this blog entry (yep, I’m still on my mat). The mat is practice for life. It’s like sending smoke signals to the big guys.
Thank You Steve Jobs!
Thank you to everyone coming out to my varied substitute teaching gigs through 8 Limbs Yoga Centers! I appreciate every one of you releasing your attachment to your favorite teachers and taking a chance on a substitute. It has been such a fun and cool thing to teach you. Your efforts in class, as well as your exceedingly kind words after class are inspiring and fortifying!
Let’s keep practicing together, and some day when I have a regular teaching job we can make this thing formal!
In deep gratitude,
There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time. This expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.
No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.