We all have times when things can seem a bit too much, and nothing is going the way we wanted or expected it to. Being in the midst of this can feel like you’re on a hamster wheel, doing the same thing day in and day out. Often when we’re in this type of rut, we react to our circumstances or interactions without stepping back and consciously choosing how we want to respond. We let autopilot take over, and then we wonder why nothing changes.
I started doing yoga many years ago when I was in a highly stressful role, impacting my life balance. I felt like I was stretched beyond my capacity to cope and that I was barely hanging on. An advert in the local newspaper caught my attention; it advertised a free six week Raja Yoga class. I instantly wanted to go along and learn more about it. I’d been practising yoga on and off for years, but at the time I had zero knowledge of what Raja Yoga was. I went along with my daughter and was surprised to learn that we would not be doing any asana (physical postures) - So I put my mat to the side and kept an open mind.
The practice is about living a set of values, eight to be exact and this is my journey to finding Raja Yoga, what each of the values means and, how I continue to use these learnings as my internal toolkit throughout life.
In one of my early classes, the teacher explained how we would be learning about the living values of the eight powers. These powers are the resources we all possess within ourselves that can help us navigate challenging times or interactions.
We were given simple images which depicted the powers we can use in response to different circumstances in our life.
My interpretation of the eight powers (in no particular order);
For me, this meant facing a situation with courage, being brave and standing up for yourself. Being true to ourselves and moving on.
Taking a minute to go inside and retreat, to stand back, observe, detach, withdraw, take stock and not rush in.
Letting go and taking only the bare minimum with us, no excess baggage, to leave things behind or pack up our negative thoughts.
The Fruit Tree (the actual visual shows someone throwing a rock to obtain the fruit)
For me, this is about unconditional love and accepting situations. Instead of holding back goodness; to give, to tolerate and be generous in return. If someone throws stones, give them flowers. If you feel like you are out of fruit, go back to your true nature through meditation, consciously breathing and connecting to the endless life force energy available to us.
A river meanders and finds its way; it doesn’t stop if there is a boulder in the way, it will find a way around it and flow. Our inner capacity is to be flexible, adapting to change and moulding ourselves into a new shape.
The 2 Diamonds (one real and one false)
For me, this represents situations, materialism, and influences that require you to distinguish right or wrong, true or false, have clarity and use your intellect.
Represents balance, weighs things up, and works out the pros and cons to make good decisions. To use your wisdom from past mistakes and to analyse.
The Ants (carrying a log together)
This one is about working together to achieve a higher goal, teamwork, community and helping each other out.
This practice taught me a lot about myself, by looking through the lens of the eight powers I discovered that I had my natural default responses but was much less familiar with some of the other powers. Through this understanding, I had a desire to try out the less familiar values/powers. To develop myself as a person and become more adaptable and resilient - Like anything new and unfamiliar, this can feel uncomfortable and maybe a little scary at first.
I found the best way is to permit yourself to experiment, start with applying these principles in a small way, and allow yourself to become accustomed to new ways of responding to events and circumstances in your life. Encouraging yourself to push past your comfort zone is where the magic happens.
When I feel stressed, anxious or fearful, the best thing to do is soothe myself into a calm state so that I can engage my thinking brain before I respond (i.e. using the tortoise power). In these circumstances, I retreat, perhaps sleep or meditate and then think about how I wish to react whilst considering each of the other Raga powers.
Through life experience, we learn. By adapting our response mechanism, we give ourselves a whole host of new tools to ensure we experience growth and personal development in our everyday lives. These tools allow us to step off the spinning hamster wheel, live our lives presently and experience life's ups and downs with wholehearted honesty and integrity. Raja Yoga is a gift of perspective, utilising these tools will help bring our journey and purpose on track and keep us moving forward.
Lorna’s passion in life is to help people feel good in mind and body; as part of her commitment to this, she will be sharing more tools and techniques on personal development, yoga, and meditation. Find out more about Lorna’s journey and current work within the yoga and meditation arena by heading to her collaborator page here.
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