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The 8 Limbs of Yoga for Athletes (and why YOU need them)
Now, more than ever, athletes are looking to yoga as a way to improve athletic performance— as a cross training technique, to increase mental awareness, to keep their bodies supple, and as a way to rehabilitate their bodies after injury. Most athletes turn to Asana, (yoga poses) to fulfill these goals. They might take a class, which might incorporate some breathing and a little mental concentration or a relaxation technique. But did you know asana or the poses are just one of seven principles of yoga? Here we will explore these other principles, or limbs, how they relate to your yoga practice and how we can integrate them into our training routines and competitions.
Traditionally, asanas, are merely used to prepare our bodies for meditation practice— similar to an athlete preparing mentally for a sports competition. The yoga sutras refer to eight limbs of yoga, asana being only one of them. Each limb offers guidance on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. The word yoga means to connect. The thing we look to connect to is the true self. The word yoga can also mean separation or disentanglement. The thing we’re disentangling from is whatever stops us from feeling free. When we practice these limbs of yoga, they can help us in our athletic performance by bringing our mind, body and spirit into balance.
Elite athletes and weekend warriors alike can benefit from this type of balance especially when we have, in the past, pushed our bodies to the max, resulting in weakness, mental and physical fatigue and injury. Yoga can help to restore a weakened body and build it back up. Yoga postures, breathing and focus can help rebalance, strengthen and restore overtaxed muscles joints and ligaments. Through this restoration process, athletes can increase their career longevity and develop an inner balance that will last a lifetime. Balancing the mind,body and spirit, is a true way to honour ourselves and our journey as athletes.
The 8 limbs are: yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. Here is their definition, how we can incorporate them into our practice on the mat, and how we apply them to our sports training and on the course.
The Yamas are concerned with the world around us and our interaction with it. They are our moral compass. By considering these aspects on the yoga mat, and on the course, all of our decisions and actions can come from a more considered, aware, and higher place, enabling us to become more authentic athletes.
The Yamas are further divided into five principles: ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya and aparigraha.
Ahimsa means non-violence. Ahimsa can be interpreted as: not physically harming others, ourselves, or nature; not thinking negative thoughts about others or ourselves; and making sure that what we do and how we do it is done in harmony, rather than causing harm. On the mat, ahimsa means never pushing yourself to the point of pain. It means being kind to your muscles and joints. On the course, ahimsa means being gentle with yourself and others. Listen to what your body is telling you; don’t ignore the signs of an impending injury. Don’t purposely elbow or cut off fellow competitors. Don’t force training partners to keep an unreasonable pace. Don’t choose runs/terrain that is dangerously harder than you or your training partners can handle.
Satya is truthfulness, but it’s more than just telling the truth. Our thoughts, emotions and moods are interchangeable, yet these are the things that create our own truth. In yoga we work on creating a little space so that we can realise that we are not just our thoughts. On the mat, satya means being honest with yourself about how a pose feels, and whether you should back off or go deeper. On the course, it means being honest with yourself; stop or slow down when you feel pain. Be honest with others. Let your training partners go ahead if you feel tired; make sure you are appropriately body- marked for your category.
Asteya means non-stealing, but like the other Yamas and Niyamas, it means so much more that that. Asteya arises from the idea that we are not good enough or that we don’t have enough. It arises from the lack of faith in ourselves. On the mat, asteya looks like not grasping for things that are beyond our personal resources; don’t attempt poses beyond our capability. On the course, we practice asteya by not cheating. If race rules prohibit outside assistance, follow them. Respect others’ property and space, including transition areas at multisport events. On and off the mat, we practice feeling as though we already have enough and we already are enough within ourselves.
Brahmacharya is often translated as celibacy – and is often considered irrelevant in our modern culture. Brahmacharya is more modernly interpreted as right use of energy, meaning, directing our energy away from external desires and instead, towards finding peace and happiness within ourselves.
On the mat, brahmacharya looks like staying within your personal limits. On the course it means pacing yourself using self-control.
Aparigraha means non-greed, non-possessiveness, and non-attachment. This important Yama teaches us to take only what we need, keep only what serves us in the moment and to let go when the time is right. On the mat we practice this by being happy with where we are; don’t compare your poses with those of the more flexible. On the course, don’t covet a podium finish; instead, give your best performance and don’t overreach your abilities. Don’t compare your equipment with that of others— don’t envy others’ skis or bikes!
The Niyamas are the second limb. They are our moral principles of self control; the way we treat ourselves. They are intended to help us build character. The Niyamas are divided into five principles; saucha, santosa, tapas, svadhyaya and ishvara pranidhana.
Saucha is commonly translated as cleanliness, but it’s more than just physical cleanliness. It also refers to any habits we have picked up that no longer serve us. On the mat, practice saucha by keeping your mat, body and mind clean. Treat your mat as a temple, and don’t drag your figurative dirty laundry to your practice. On the course, keep your body clean, well nourished, and free of drugs.
Santosa often translates as contentment. We have all harboured the thought “I’ll be happy when/if….” Santosha encourages us to accept and appreciate what we have and what we are, right now. On the mat, practice santosa by being happy with yourself as you are. Instead of powering through inflexibility or resenting illness or injury, appreciate your body the way it is. On the course, practice contentment with the way things play out in a training session or a race. When things don’t go the way you planned, accept them anyway and find happiness in that contentment.
Tapas can be translated into ‘discipline’ or ‘burning enthusiasm’. This Niyama helps us cultivate a sense of self discipline, passion and courage. Tapas has many meanings and how it’s expressed in you can be different to someone else’s experience. Essentially, it’s our inner wisdom that we sometimes ignore and it’s the fiery passion that feeds our sense of purpose! On the mat; use your enthusiasm for your sport as you approach yoga. Devote yourself to learning the practice. On the course; embrace discipline and hard efforts for their beneficial effect. Tapas also refers to internal heat, like that of lactate thresholds and vo2 max.
Svadhyaya literally means one’s own reading or self study. Practicing self reflection, observation, and study of the self makes us more aware of the things we do that harm us, plus the things that serve us, bringing us in closer contact with our true self. Svadhyaya also encourages us to further educate ourselves in whatever inspires and fascinates us, deepening our own knowledge. On the mat; observe your area of tightness and your progression in the poses. Track your mental and emotional reactions to the work you do in asana and meditation. On the course, keep a training log. Note your physical performance in workouts and races as well as your mental and emotional process. This log will be useful for reflection.
Ishvara pranidhana means surrendering to a higher power, or more simply, letting go of our expectations. Do your best, be authentic and life live fully, but let go of the story and of your expectations. On the mat, bring your devotion to the mat by finishing each session with a prayer of gratitude. On the course open yourself to something bigger than you. Be a channel for grace.
Asana is the third limb of yoga, and by far the most popular in modern times. It should be noted though, that this is the third limb, not the first, meaning that in order for us to practice proper asana, we should have a grasp of the yamas and niyamas beforehand. They are the foundation which we apply our asana to. Asana literally means seat. While we may associate asana to a wild backbend or fancy arm balance, the only direction from the yoga sutras is ‘sthira sukham asanam’ meaning a steady and comfortable pose is asana. Asana is the vehicle to ready our physical body to meditation. If meditation is our sport, asana is our physical training.
So how do we translate this for our athletic selves?
On the mat, we can get fancy in our poses but it’s the comfort and preparedness that comes within our physical bodies that is more important. On the course; attention leads to efficiency. Have a plan, train regularly and it will yield gradual results. Haphazard training does not. Know how to train and why.
Pranayama is the fourth limb. Prana in sanskrit translates to life force energy. Yama means control. Simply, pranayama means controlling our breath therefore our life-force energy. This word can also be translated in another way prana-ayama, meaning breath freedom or liberation. Changing our breath will change our state of being. It’s up to us as to whether we perceive this as controlling the way we feel or freeing ourselves from the habitual way our mind may usually be.
On the mat; stay focused on your breath as you move in and out of the poses and as you hold them. Even when still, the breath brings constant motion to the body.
On the course; know your breath and it’s habits, and return to a calm, neutral breath whenever possible. Notice when your breath is uneven and difficult, and continually question whether your level of exertion is appropriate in that moment. In training, know what your best breath is and practice maintaining this steadiness.
Pratyahara is the fifth limb. This aspect of practice is often misunderstood as sense withdrawal. Pratya means withdraw; ahara means our senses or anything we take in. Instead of actually losing the ability to hear, smell, see and feel, the practice of pratyahara changes our state of mind so that we become so absorbed in what it is we’re focussing on, that the things outside of ourselves no longer bother us and we’re able to meditate without becoming easily distracted.
On the mat practice pratyahara by making your mat your world. Don’t pay attention to the people beside you in class– and certainly don’t compare your poses with theirs.
On the course; associate your mind with your own body, not with what’s happening around you. In this way, you ignore the distracting information your senses gather from the outside environment and pay attention instead to what’s going on inside your body.
Dharana is the sixth limb. When translated Dha means holding or maintaining and Ana means other or something else. Dharana is closely linked to the previous limbs; dharana and pratyahara are two sides of the same coin. In order to focus on something, the senses must withdraw so our attention can be put on that one point of concentration. Dharana means focused concentration; bringing all five senses on one single object or point of focus. Notice a trend here? We need to practice all five limbs leading up to dharana in order to make this single- pointed focus happen. The purpose of Dharana is to control the mind. On the mat; pay attention to the form, your breath and the mat. With this focus, allow all mental chatter to go quiet. On the course; devote complete attention to technique, marshalling all your effort to keep your form together, while wasting no energy. This is dharana in motion.
Dhyana, the seventh limb, is meditative absorption – when we become completely absorbed in the focus of our meditation. Meditation means being connected to one’s true self. In this state, you focus deeper inward and are able to observe the true self without interference of the mind and senses.
On the mat; always keep your awareness in the present moment. This is where your next movement will come to you without conscious thought.
On the course; focus on the here and now, and when the mind begins to disassociate, bring your attention back to the form and breath.
Samadhi is the deepest state of meditation, where we are free from the illusions of time, space and reason. After we’ve reorganized our relationships with the outside world and within, we come to the finale of bliss.
When we break the word in half to translate samadhi, it is made up of sama and dhi. Sama means same or equal and dhi means to see. Reaching samadhi is not about floating away or being abundantly joyful, it is about realizing the very life that lies right here in front of us. It is Connection with universal Self. Everything comes together and feels effortless. The culmination of Bliss + physical well-being.
On the mat; be open to flashes of connection fostered by asana, pranayama, and meditation. On the course; samadhi happens when you recognize the connection between you and the elements of your environment. Savour the blissful moments when everything comes together, even if they are fleeting. Effortless motion. Fulfillment of human potential. Being connected to the world and friends. Why we do what we do.
Maybe you are already implementing some of these techniques without knowing what they were. Maybe you have had glimpses of bliss on the course; pure happiness in your sport. Like any goal setting, it’s helpful to have a map, a plan. Now that you know all the limbs, it’s easier to create the blueprint for your own blissful journey, which ever sport you choose. Get out there and enjoy yourselves.
The Urban Alchemist – BLOG Post
Could coffee be contributing to your back pain?
When it comes to coffee, we’re used to reading articles around its perceived health benefits or stressors. Or, if like me, you dwell around the northern parts of Melbourne you can recognise ‘roast’ lingo when someone drops cold-drip, magic or piccolo latte. But something which you may not be as familiar with is the connection between coffee and back pain.
Many of us reach for that morning cup of joe to get the energy hit to get our day rolling or simply enjoy the ritual of it.
And whilst many of us have a job which requires us to either sit all day or require more physical exertion, the effects of this, combined with caffeine intake, may be the culprit behind chronic back pain.
What happens to our body when we consume our cup of joe?
Caffeine has a direct stimulatory effect on our cortisol levels, causing these to rise. Increased cortisol levels contribute to inflammation in the body, disrupts quality sleep and raise levels of anxiety.
Whilst excess cortisol causes connective tissues to become inflamed, a combination of these three effects can exasperate areas of pain in the body.
The sum of it’s parts is greater than the whole.
This isn’t another article urging you to switch your morning coffee to whisk up some Matcha tea but consider how dietary factors may be turning up in your body. If you’re someone with chronic back pain who is currently consuming more than 1 cup of coffee a day and suffering from anxiety and poor sleep, then try cutting back your caffeine consumption to see if this alleviates some of the discomfort you’re experiencing.
It’s about taking a holistic approach
Whilst it’s still important to keep working with your chiropractor to help bring your body back to a state of alignment, there are sometimes more than one factor we can look at.
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An Apple a Day…For Your Website
Why WordPress website maintenance is necessary for your website health
Congratulations on your smooth, shiny, fast new site!
Just like a fancy new car, websites require regular maintenance to keep the site working properly, quickly and help with your SEO. Avoid that regular oil change and your car won’t be driving for very long. The same applies to your website. Set it and forget it doesn’t work for your business and your website is the same boat. It needs to be polished, warmed up and ready for customers.
Websites Are Not a “Set and Forget”
Have you ever had a distressing email from a client saying something is broken on your website? Did your stomach sink down to your knees thinking you’ve got to drop EVERYTHING you are doing at that moment to deal with those little emergencies instead of focussing on your business?
If you haven’t planned regular website maintenance you could be throwing money out the window. You get one chance to impress your visitors, and if they find anything broken in your website that not only reflects poorly on your business but visitors won’t stick around. Business owners rarely check their website to see how it’s functioning, and any downtime can lose you, potential customers.
The Benefits of Maintenance
Here are the real nitty gritty benefits of monthly website maintenance:
The website performance, and that smooth backend process that no one ever thinks about (until its broken of course) is all dependent on the WordPress software and plugins functioning as they should (and on the most recent version).
The website growth, it’s fresh content, analytics monitoring and design changes is all dependent on you having someone making sure all updates to the website are done in a smooth and error-free fashion.
So Here are Just a Few Things We Do to Care for Your Website
- WordPress Software & Plugin Updates
- Website Backups
- Security & Malware Scans
- Priority support. (If your website crashes on Black Friday – who ya gonna call?)
- Database Cleaning and Optimization
- Performance Scans
- Fix Broken Links/Errors
- Monthly Reporting
The Dangerous DIY Method
Do-It-Yourself maintenance of your site could cost you more than you may think. If you’re doing random WordPress and Plug Updates, you don’t have a record of what you’ve done. One small update to a plugin can create issue weeks or months later in conjunction with other incompatible updates and now you can’t revert back without restoring a very old backup (and possibly losing content changes, sales orders, contact entries, you name it).
Very Costly Fixes and Lost Business
Inexperience and neglect can damage the look and functionality of your website. When that happens you have a choice to make: Try and fix it yourself (in which case you may do further damage), or you can then pay the hefty hourly emergency price for someone experienced to fix it. Rules of business are that it costs more to fix it than it does to maintain it properly. Regular site maintenance helps keeps your web site running properly.
Call in a Stick With The Professionals
You know your business. You’re great at what you do. Why not deal with what you know best and let us deal with what we know best? On your next flight across the world do you ever think about all the moving parts that just go? And would you leave your life in the hands of a novice? Then why try to maintain your own website if you’re not a web professional? That’s a novice rookie error and you’ll only do it once. By securing an experienced web professional to update and maintain your site properly you are actually saving potential lost sales and visitors.
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I’m willing to bet both of my eye teeth, that if you are a small business owner you get about a dozen of these sales emails a week. They might not be for photo editing specifically but you get the gist. On the odd occasion I’m actually at my desk plunking away I will return the odd response. Is anyone listening? Not likely. But it sure feels smug to be able to hit SEND.
The real point that hit me was WHY would I not care about a POSSIBLY great service to use? It’s the angle of attack of course.
BUY MY STUFF. USE ME I’M THE BEST. WE GIVE GOOD QUALITY WORK.
Am I shouting too loud? Exactly.
First off – If you can’t even find someone to correct your grammar I’M OUT. This kind of poor quality attention to detail has me running for the door.
Second – I want you to learn about MY business. Ask ME questions, learn about what my needs in business are THEN pitch me the services I need.
Third – Blanket emails that you can’t even put a NAME to (and all that would take is checking on my ABOUT PAGE) to personalise. You would get so many more opens to this email if you personalised it with Dear XXX”
A well formatted sales email will ask questions, will hit on pain points, identify problems, and provide solutions. And only THEN will they go in for the Sale.
Build the relationship first, learn, and then GO FOR THE JUGULAR.
(In case you were curious)
This type of blank solicitation email does not work to get sales. We Australians do not like spammy unsolicited sales emails. Why don’t you ask me what I NEED instead of PUSHING your company all over me like a bad smell. I can bet you haven’t received even 1 positive response back?
Understand your customers, and what they want and MAYBE you will be able to offer me something I would buy into.
Your Sales Tip of the Day from Someone Who Would Actually Consider Using You If I Thought you Might Actually Care About My Business.
- 4 CommentsComments on Erin Pimm’s article
All. The. Time! I might cut and paste your response – gold
Spelling errors are a good way to sniff out scammers as well. Aside from that I’m not going to entrust editing, mastering or anything else that requires attention to detail with someone who can’t manage to run spell check.
LikeLike Rebecca Kempe’s commentReply
Exactly Erin! So simple.
I occasionally get these, Erin. Some of the time, they’re for my industry – lending. I just ask them for a copy of their privacy statement and credit guide. You can guess the rest.