Hello, and welcome to Compassion As My Compass, a weekly podcast all about living yoga off the mat. I am your host, Ariel Zachow. Each week we cover a new topic and discuss what small, easily implemented things you can do to follow a yogi lifestyle after your physical practice has ended. Today I am really excited to start with what I think are the solid basics of beginning to live this yogi life. So today I want to talk to you about the three things that you can do to start living your yoga based life or your yogi life.
Just a little fun fact for you, if you’re a man, it’s a yogi life, if you’re a woman, it’s your yogini life. But sort of the more accepted- or the more popular rather, is your ‘yogi’ life.
So for those of you who don’t know, which I think is probably most people, the basis of yoga breaks the practices of yoga, and the yoga philosophy down into eight limbs. So you have the eight limbs of yoga, I think that’s kind of a lot to jump into from the get go.
My goal for this particular show, and this podcast and blog as a whole, is to help you start to grasp the basics of yoga and the philosophy of yoga, but in a way that makes it doable for your life. So something that works for me doesn’t necessarily work for you, it doesn’t necessarily work for the next person. And if you’re following yoga, very hardcore, very traditionally, then you are supposed to follow these eight limbs to get to the eighth limb, which is enlightenment.
I think it’s a nice goal, but I don’t think it’s really practical for most people. So what I want to do today is talk about the three things that you can do that are a really good starting point. And this is perfect for you if you’ve hardly even heard of yoga, maybe you’ve never gone to a yoga practice, but you’re interested. I think this is also good for you if you’ve dabbled in yoga a little bit, you’ve gone to a couple of classes, maybe you meditate every now and then.
But I also think this is a great thing to check into if you’ve done yoga for a very long time, and you go to classes often, but that’s where it stops for you, it stops at the very basic asana practice, or the very basic physical practice of yoga. Like I said, there are eight major principles, but they can be very overwhelming. And there’s a lot of smaller parts to that, and we will go over what the eight limbs are and what they mean and how to work them into your life.
But today, we’re going to go very basic, we’re going to start at the beginning. So in my opinion, the three best places to start: kindness, physical practice, and meditation. So don’t freak out. Because I know that meditation especially is very overwhelming to people. So I’m going to walk you through how these are a good starting point, and what little tiny things you need to do to make them happen in your life.
So we’ll start with kindness. And this falls under the first limb of yoga, which actually has many, many parts to it, but we’re going to sum it up and we’re going to go with kindness. Kindness is very easy to work in. It’s very rewarding. But it’s also something that’s very easily forgotten, I think, especially in daily life now.
I live in New York and things are very fast paced, they’re very go go go, especially if you live in any major city. Maybe you are surrounded by a million people, and maybe your commute is very long, and you’re somebody who struggles with road rage, or you’re just sort of a short tempered person. And I think it’s really easy to let kindness disappear from your life, because everybody else is very aggressive, and nobody else is being very kind.
I always think about this when someone is kind to me and it’s a shock, which is kind of sad. I feel like everybody should be a lot kinder to everybody else. But if I go into the grocery store, and somebody holds the door for me, or somebody lets me, you know, go in front of them when I’m driving somewhere, it’s always such a shock to me when somebody is kind. And I think that’s really sad. Because kindness should not be a rarity, it should be a standard to which a lot of people are living their life.
And this doesn’t have to be some crazy massive thing that you do, it can be very small. So I guess I’ll just walk you through how I bring kindness into my life. To me, there are many parts to it. So it’s not simply holding the door for somebody or smiling at a stranger, its kindness towards yourself, towards others, towards the earth and the environment- it’s a lot of things.
And that’s good and bad. It’s good because it can really grow, and it can snowball, and it can turn into this really big thing in your life. But it can be bad because you don’t want to get overwhelmed and think ‘how can I do every single, single little tiny thing in my life with kindness,’ because starting from zero, that can be kind of a lot.
I recommend starting with something very small. And I recommend starting with focusing on being kind to yourself first. And again, that can be very complicated,. It can be really difficult to do. But maybe it’s starting as small as looking at all of the things that you’re balancing as one person and deciding which of those things is not helpful for you. Maybe you have drinks with your girlfriends this weekend, but really what you would love to do is just sleep in, stay in your pajamas, have some coffee, and relax and watch a little Netflix.
But you feel obligated to do these other they’re things and you think that you’re being kind to your friends by going with them. But maybe what’s best for you- being kind to you- is listening to your body and saying, ‘You know what, I need to take a breather, I need to just relax and I need to be good to me for a little bit.’ So it’s something that’s very small as that. Pay attention to how you’re feeling.
Can you balance all of these things? If not, what can you respectfully remove from your to do list. And you can do it in a kind way. You don’t have to say, ‘now listen, I listened to this girl’s podcast, and she said I can’t go out with you guys anymore because it’s not kind to me.’ It doesn’t have to be some big thing.
It can be as simple as saying, ‘Hey, I really just need to take a little me time. I need to do a little self care. But I will totally catch you guys next week.’ So think about a couple of things that you can do. Or maybe just one thing that you can do to be a little kinder to yourself.
Maybe it’s as simple as incorporating more veggies into your diet. It’s something small. A good place to start is to look at yourself and to figure out what you can do to make you feel a little bit better, because it’s going to make all other parts of this kindness idea much easier.
So the other part of kindness is being kind to others.
One of the ideas that fits into this first limb of yoga, which we’ve sort of summed up as kindness, is the idea of Ahimsa. And we will dive pretty deeply into Ahimsa in other episodes, but for me, Ahimsa means following a vegan lifestyle. I’m not saying that you have to do that. If that doesn’t work for you, then don’t. But I’m going to just tell you how it works for me.
Ahimsa translates to compassion and non violence towards all living things. So personally, for me in my life, Ahimsa is a big part of how I practice kindness, and self care, and self love, and kindness, and care and love to all other things. So maybe that’s something that works for you, maybe not. But it’s just another idea for you.
If you’re not so hot on the idea of veganism or Ahimsa in general, just trying to be nice to the people that you encounter in a day to day life. If you’re stuck in traffic, everybody’s really cranky, it’s rush hour, you just want to be where you’re trying to go- it can be as simple as taking a moment to be kind to yourself. Stop for a second, take a breath and look at the other people around you.
Can you let somebody in front of you? They probably won’t notice, they’re definitely not going to thank you, but maybe your little thing of just letting somebody in is going to change their whole day. And they’re going to be like, ‘Oh, I don’t have to be so frickin rude all the time, I can be kind too.’ Maybe it’s as simple as holding the door for somebody.
I hear every now and then on the news about these lines at Starbucks at the drive thru, where you pay for the drink for the person behind you. Something little like that is not only going to possibly change the course of somebody else’s day, but it could really make you feel good too. And this is a good time to be selfish.
“You’re allowed to feel good about doing good things for other people.”
You’re allowed to feel good about doing good things for other people. That is totally okay in my book. And it’s a really good way to sort of get your own little kindness high, which is not a bad thing to add to your day. And sort of this final little part of kindness is kindness towards the earth, towards the environment, towards this place that we call home.
This can be however big or however small you want it to be, but I think it’s something that’s very important. And I think it’s something that’s getting a lot more traction nowadays, but it’s also something that a lot of people turn a blind eye to.
So maybe you start with just bringing reusable bags to the grocery store. That’s a really great place to start. Maybe it’s choosing food at the farmers market over a cauliflower that’s wrapped in plastic at the grocery store. Maybe it’s picking up trash when you go on a walk -something like that. Something little.
You’re not going to be rewarded or thanked for any of these things. So you have to know that you are doing good. And you have to sort of be okay with yourself to say, ‘no one’s probably going to recognize this. But you know what, I know that I did good, and it makes me feel good.’
There’s number one. Kindness. Kindness to yourself, towards others, and towards the planet. So pick one as a starting place and then let that grow and let that build.
Number two is- I’m going to call it Asana, which is your physical practice. But I think that most people should expand on this.
Again, if you’re following really, really strictly this yoga philosophy- And yoga is between five and 10,000 years old, so if you talk to the Yogi’s of five and 10,000 years ago, they’re going to say you need to do specifically this practice, and you need to do these poses and these asanas. And that’s how you fulfill this basis of living a yogi life. It’s great if you can do a yoga based physical practice, an Asana based practice, but I don’t think that it has to be that.
Maybe you don’t like yoga classes, maybe it’s just not your thing. But what you should be doing, in my opinion, is moving your body every day.
The body is designed to move. It’s not designed to sit and be stationary as often as we are. So what can you do to get your body moving to start to feel good? It’s going to be potentially life changing thing for you.
If you’re somebody who doesn’t do any sort of physical movement or physical exercise, it can be difficult to get started. But I think that very quickly you’re going to see the benefits of why you should be doing that. I do yoga four or five times a week- pretty often. I love it, and it always makes me feel good.
But it is not my go to.
In a perfect world, every day I take like three or four really long, super easy walks, and it’s sunshiny and its warm. But that’s not always an option for me. So that’s always my go to, but I dabble in a lot of things.
I’m a group fitness instructor, so I get a lot of physical exercise through the classes that I teach. And I know that some of my students strictly attend my classes and that’s what their physical exercise is, but it can really be anything that works for you.
If you like to go swimming, let that be your physical practice or your asana practice. Again, you have the option to go to a yoga class, you can go for personal training, you can go on a walk or take a hike, anything that’s going to get your body moving and get you feeling good is okay. It doesn’t have to be something huge.
It doesn’t have to be what the person next to you is doing. Pick something you love, something that you’re going to be excited to do most days, if not every day. And I encourage you to explore.
Try a bunch of different things. I didn’t find what I loved until I found a bunch of things that I really hated. And ironically enough, I hate going to fitness classes, but I love teaching them. So I know that that’s where I’m going to get my physical practice, is through teaching a class.
“The body is designed to move.”
And I realized that that’s maybe not an option for you, maybe you don’t want to restart your whole life and become a fitness trainer. But maybe you like going to those classes.
And there are a plethora of free options online as well. This isn’t something that you have to pay for. Go to YouTube, see if you can find some free yoga classes or some free fitness classes. This can be anything that works for you.
It can be five minutes, it can be five hours a day. Anything that gets your body moving is going to give you a really solid base, and it’s going to start to build you up and make you feel good. And that goodness is going to spread to all other parts of your life.
And finally, my third, and this is a big one, this is a scary one- meditation.
Now, before you freak out and before you turn this off, just hold on for a second, because I’m going to walk you through it.
People get very overwhelmed when they hear the word meditation. I think that most people know that they should be meditating in some way, but most of those people also say, ‘you know what, I cannot sit and empty my mind and sit perfectly still, it’s too boring. I don’t like it. I’m not good at it. So I’m not going to do it.’
And I’m gonna let you and I’m a little secret.
I suck at meditation. I’m really, really, really bad at it. And I don’t do it as often as I should, but I know that it’s important, and I know that when I do it with regularity, I feel amazing.
So it’s something that I really do put an effort into adding into my daily routine of trying to live this nice, rounded Yogi life. And again, this is what works for you, so I’m going to give you a couple of suggestions.
I encourage you to try a bunch of them out and find what you like the best. But know that meditation is a journey. It’s not easy. It takes a little getting used to. But once you find your groove and once you find a style that you like, I think you’re going to be really happy with the outcome.
So the place that I always recommend to start when you’re starting a meditation practice is to find a guided meditation. And all that means is you’re listening to a voice tell you what to do. It’s really helpful because it takes out all of the question marks.
There’s no, ‘how long should I sit here? How should I be sitting? What do I think about? How do I do this? How do I breathe?’ There will be somebody there via your audio or your video or through an app to tell you exactly what to do. Different voices sound nice to different people, lots of these options are free, several of them are paid, so you can try a little bit of everything and find what you like.
But guided meditation is where I got my start. And I’m telling you, it changed my life.
It showed me that meditation doesn’t have to be this crazy, you know, sit in the middle of the woods and hold perfectly still and empty your mind. It’s not that. It’s what works best for you.
And again, if you go back and you ask these original creators of yoga, and these original yoga philosophers, they’re going to tell you ‘don’t pick up your stupid phone and do meditation that way.’ I say, do what works for you. If a guided meditation is going to get you to meditate on a regular basis, do that. Pick up your phone.
The world is full of these amazing, often free tools that you can use to enjoy your yoga practice. Another option that you can try is to sit and just pay attention to your breath.
It can be as simple as that just sitting and saying, ‘Where in my body and my feeling my breath? Is my breath shallow? Or is it deep? Is it long? Or is it short? Is it easy? Is it labored? Am I breathing through my nose or through my mouth?’
That’s such a good place to start. Just to sit and be aware and in tune with your body. That’s a really, really good, very easy way to start. And you can do that anywhere. It can last for as long or as little as you want.
And if you like this sort of focus on the breath, there’s a million ways to build on that. And again, I encourage you to look up a video or a recording of somebody walking you through different types of breath focused meditation. So there’s a ton of ways that you can do that.
This is one of my favorite ways to meditate, and I do this when I get nervous, or when I fly. I am a very terrible flyer. I get so freaked out and I just- I just don’t like it. It’s ironic, I know, because I fly all the time, but the thing that keeps me calm and gets me through my flights is sitting there and thinking ‘where do I feel my breath?’
My favorite type of meditative breathing, it’s a three part breath. So first you inhale and expand your belly and then you let your ribs expand and then you let your chest rise. On your exhale, you let your chest fall, ribs relax, and a little contraction through the belly. And that can get me through a very nervous, very anxious spell, or anxious bit of flying or whatever it is. It’s it’s an immediate calm for me. I love that style of meditation.
And another meditation option- this is something that I really love. You maybe see a Yogi’s wearing beads, like a beaded necklace, or beaded bracelet. Those are called Japa Malas.
Traditionally they have 108 beads on them, and the best way to know how to use it- is it’s sort of like a rosary. So you sit and you hold one bead, and you pick a mantra, and you say that mantra out loud or to yourself. Then you go to the next bead, and you say it again, and you do it for the length of the necklace or the bracelet. And if you want, you do it again and go back in the opposite direction.
This is my go to. I love the breathing style, but I love the Japa Mala too, because there’s a very specific starting and ending point. And there’s a very specific goal of ‘say this mantra. Now say it again. Now say it again until you reach the end of that set that you’re doing.’
I personally wear my mala all the time. I made mine myself, you can make your own, you can buy one from anywhere, they can be very inexpensive, made with wood or seeds. Sometimes they’re made with real stone. They can be anywhere from five to $500. So it’s whatever you want to spend. Or make one yourself. But it’s a nice thing to have.
For me simply having this mala on my body all of the time gives me this sort of like easy meditative state because I know what the mala means. I know what I use it for, and I know that when it’s in my hand, I go into this meditative state. So it’s an easy thing to jump into. And it’s a really nice thing to have with me all the time.
So again, try those out, see what you like, see what works for you. Maybe there are things you don’t like, maybe some are very intriguing, or others bore the living daylights out of you. Don’t try those ones or don’t continue with those ones, but explore a little bit. It’s much like the physical practice.
You have to be excited to try different things, to find what works for you. If you try one or two things and you don’t like either of them and you give up, you’re never going to be able to lay this foundation that you can build on. So go in knowing that there’s going to be some sort of questionable periods where you don’t know what’s going to be your perfect way to incorporate these things into your life.
But if you go in excited to try and excited to learn and excited to figure out what your perfect sweet spot is, I think that in the end, all of the hard work is going to pay off, and you’re going to be glad that you took the time to do all of this.
“Practice kindness, move your body, and make time for meditation.”
So in summation, the three things that I think you should be adding to your life to start to sort of live this Yogi life, this yoga philosophy, practice kindness to yourself, to others, to the world. Find some way to move your body every day, whether it’s a yoga class, a walk, a hike, a fitness class, time with a personal trainer, anything that gets you to move your body, every day. And some sort of meditation practice, no matter how long or how short, no matter what style, find a little time to quiet yourself to be still to be alone, and to check in with your body.
I hope that this was helpful for you. I hope this has given you some ideas, or at least a little bit of a starting point. If you listen to this, and you’re still totally lost and totally have no idea what to do, please reach out to me I’d love to have a little talk with you and see where we should start with you and what what I think would be most beneficial for you. If you enjoyed this show, I invite you to follow me on Instagram, my Instagram handle is @compassion.as.my.compass, you can send me an email to Ariel@compassionasmy ompass.com and if you’re feeling super crazy, I would so love it if you left a review of this show. Again, never hesitate to reach out to me. I love to connect with my followers and with my listeners. If you have any requests for shows that you would like to hear in the future, or you would like to be a guest on one of my shows, send me a message on Instagram or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you so much for listening and I will see you next week.