As we look to the new year ahead of us, we may feel happy and contented with where we are in our lives or we may feel unsettled and unsteady – not sure how to navigate the challenges in front of us. One of the benefits of yoga is that it helps us stand more firmly on our feet, aligned in our physical body – and this can lead to a mental and emotional steadiness over time which supports us. This is reflected in one of the central niyamas or character-building observances – Ishvar Pravidhana – one translation of which is ‘learning how to line up with nature’s intelligence and grace’.
A few weeks ago we moved through the autumnal equinox, when day and night are of equal length. The equinox acts as a point of balance between the two solstices – summer and winter – and provides a moment to reflect as we find ourselves at a point of balance between day and night, light and dark, outward-moving and inward-moving energy.
As my children and I begin to bend our minds towards going back to school, we also know that routine and discipline are good for us and help us to be our best serves. Long, hot summer days can lead to less of a routine and daily schedule. ‘Tapas’ – translated as heat or discipline – is one of the yogic niyamas or character building inquiries. But what does it mean in our daily life?
In yoga, we are working towards alignment of the mind, body and breath to arrive fully in the present moment. But compromised physical alignment, where we force our bodies, can be counter-productive leading to over stretching some areas or reinforcing structural imbalances.