What a wonderful week we spent practicing yoga and studying philosophy and nutrition! We’ve reached the end of the first week-long yoga challenge / cleanse. Throughout this week, we practiced yoga everyday, discovering the expansiveness that a daily yoga practice offers. We ate “clean” foods, drank a lot of freshly prepared juices and wonderful Mellow Moods food. We discovered our path to dedication, a practice in itself, one in which we learn so much about ourselves. We began the week with a discussion of yogic diet, one that is traditionally a vegetarian one, but more importantly even, a yogic diet is filled with those foods and drinks that serve you everyday, eating to lift ourselves rather than fill a void or eating and drinking that which leaves us heavy and anguished.

Each day after we studied and learned a “limb” of yoga: the five Yamas offer us a guide to being with the world. The first Yama, compassion (ahimsa) is often deemed the most more important, for when we meditate on and discover true compassion, then the rest of the Yamas follow automatically (truth / satya, non-stealing / asteya, non-greed or grasping / aparigraha, control of one’s life force or celibacy / bramacharya). Practicing these qualities in our everyday life and dealings with people is one of the highest practices we can offer the world. We studied also the five Niyamas, our personal guide for living. In the Niyamas we learn the importance of cultivating the heat (Tapas) of change–fire, the great destroyer, the beautiful transformer, necessary to burn off the old and for the cultivation of anything beautiful and new. The Niyamas also reveal the importance of purity of mind and body (Saucha) so that we can discover our highest physical and mental vibration. And Svadyaya or Self-Study in which we strive to ever know our self and our practice better. As part of the week, we chanted, we learned deeper breathing exercises that stimulate Prana, our life force. We practiced Chakra (the subtle energy system within the body) releasing poses. Finally, we ended the week with a deeper look into meditation and a restorative practice that culminated with a yoga nidra practice. Yoga Nidra is the “sleep of yoga” in which physiologically the body enters and sleep state that facilitates healing and deep peace. The mind, however, remains aware and attuned to the state of the body.

For me, the most important aspect of this week was the renewal of this timeless practice of yoga as a lifestyle. Yes, we come to the mat to do our poses and to get a wonderful physical workout and yes, it feels great and is important to sweat and to move. There are a myriad of other gifts, though, that our yoga practice offers and when we begin to unwrap those gifts, we discover a box filled with tools that allow us to live with our self and those around us in harmony and peace; a box of tools that allows us to build a beautiful new world.