Radical Self-Care with Patanjali’s 8 limbs of Yoga

 

Lately, my self-care practice has been my saving grace. When I find myself feeling anxious or overwhelmed, taking the time to care for myself has been what brings me back to my center.

A mantra that I live by is that you have to fill your own cup before you can fill anyone else’s. Self-care is important when it comes to being an activist, a dreamer, a yoga teacher, a hard worker, a performer and really any other role you were put on this earth to live up to. It’s an important part of life that we often seem to leave out or turn away from in fear of being selfish.

I am here to tell you that radical self-care is not selfish!
It’s the best thing you can do to put yourself in a position to help others.

We have to be able to do the work for ourselves so that we can properly show up for others. Caring for ourselves allows us to leave our own stuff behind and be fully present for others when they are in need. You can’t have interdependence without independence, and self-care is the perfect place to start.

So what does radical self-care look like?

I decided to look at Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga to put into perspective how I practice yoga as radical self-care and what that looks like for me. My hope is that it will inspire you to re-image what radical self-care looks like for yourselves, and how you can apply it to the yoga of your own lives.

Patanjali was the sage who wrote the Yoga Sutra. around the second century B.C.E. Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga serve as a guideline towards living a meaningful and purposeful life, and a pathway to spiritual enlightenment. The following is how I incorporate them into my modern day lifestyle.

Yamas – The 5 moral restraints

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For me, refraining from self-harm is self-care. I am mindful of who I allow myself to be around, and the things I say to myself in my head.
I’m mindful of what I put into my body because my body is the sacred vessel that I was blessed and it carries me through this life.
I live, speak and see my truth daily.
I am currently practicing abstinence from sex until the right person comes along that can treat and respect me as the goddess and the queen that I am.
I always remind myself not to get attached to the outcome, and l have found the juiciest way to live my life is to go with the flow.
In this cyclical existence, tomorrow is not promised and nothing is guaranteed, so I try to just let go.

Niyamas – The 5 observances

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Self-care through the Niyamas means that I am constantly paying attention to the cleanliness of my space, and my energy.
I practice meditation and stay mindful of my breath at times when my mind gets shaky.
While I’m not perfect, I try to remind myself that true contentment comes from within, and happiness or sadness is all a reaction and a choice that I have control over as long as I can control my breath. While this isn’t always true for everyone, it is a truth that deeply resonates with me.
I practice self-restraint through being mindful of my diet and striving to eat only plant-based foods. Sometimes I slip, but when I do, I remind myself to get back on track, and I never shame myself, as we all make mistakes.
I am constantly walking my talk and experimenting with ways to improve how I live. I play with what works for me and what doesn’t and in this way, I am always in self-study.
I remind myself daily that I am spirit and spirit is me, and in my worship of the spirit, I am constantly worshiping my supreme self.

Asana – Postures, Yoga in the Physical

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My asana practice is what helps me lubricates my joints and release the tension in my muscle tissues so that release the tension in my spirit and mind. They are all in alignment. It is what allows me to move through my day with ease. It also helps me to listen to the messages my body is sending me and through asana, I have learned to never push myself to point of disrespect or pain. It allows me the strength and range of motion needed to get things done and be ready to show up in whatever way I am physically needed. It also provides me with the longevity and nourishment I need to continue to do my work in this world without injury or harm to self. It is radical self-care in action.

Pranayama – Breath Control

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Pranayama is the art of breath control. When I can control my breath, I can control my mind and my spirit and nourish my body.
There are many different pranayama practices, but my favorite is equal breathing. This was how I found a deeper connection to my meditation practice. when I first started, it was interesting for me to find a hold of my breath and I noticed that my mind would take me away from my focus. When I learned the method of counting my in breaths and allowing them to be aligned with the count of my out breaths it gave me so much more control. From there I was able to drift off into a deeper meditation.
It’s the breath I carry with me throughout the day. It’s the easiest to tap into in any situation and ever fails to bring me back into alignment.

Pratyahara – Withdrawl from the Senses

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photo credit: Lindsey Bolling

Pratyahara translates to against food.
Sometimes I need to step away from what feeds the negative sides of me. Sometimes I need shut out the energy and refuel.
Spending time alone I re-energize and truly take the time I need to care for myself.
My space is sacred.
When I close my eyes and shut out the noises around me, I get a beautiful moment to drift off into the ether.
Even a few seconds of this creates ultimate bliss for me.
This is why I always offer my students a deep savasana at the end of practice. It is my favorite part of the practice, the true yoga, The asanas we do are just meant to help us relax into shutting of the senses with ease.

Dharana – Concentration

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Concentration for me looks like fierce focus, and when I’m focused, I’m practicing self-care for my future.
I like to stay focused on my dreams and goals. My visualization practice is my time to focus deeply on painting my reality. It reminds me that I am a creator of and I have the power to achieve great things.

Dhyana – Meditation

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Every morning I wake up and look forward to my daily meditation practice. I set up my pillows and allow myself to relax into what I call my meditation station.
This is where I can tap out and tune in for 30 minutes to an hour each day depending on what kind of time I have in the morning.
I definitely notice a difference in my day when I go without it. If I can’t get my full 30 minutes, then I try to at least go for 10.

Samadhi – Spirituality

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This one can look different for everyone. for me, it looks like taking to time sit at my altar and pray. It looks like taking time to listen to the signs that come my way from nature.
It is the intuition that lies deep inside my womb.
It shows up in the faith I have in the universe to provide.
It is the trust I have in the cyclical flow that results in things working out for the best possible outcome.
It is a knowing that even in the darkest of times, I am on the right path and I will always come back to the light.

 

How do you practice radical self-care?

If you need a new radical self-care practice, how can you look at the 8 limbs of yoga to start?

Love and Moonlight!

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Photo credit: Lindsey Bolling for the featured image

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