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niyama - one yogi's forced path to just be
Photography by chris ensey

niyama - one yogi's forced path to just be

by Melissa Yake melissa yake
Be Spiritual | Personal Story


A few years ago, I began a journey of health. I had lost my three remaining grandparents in 6 months (two of them within 6 weeks of each other), I was going through a divorce, and, because of the divorce, I had lost my core of friends (yes, it really does happen).

I began at *Weight Watchers and started losing weight and eventually joined a gym and then began working out with a trainer. I picked up running again (I had run some in college, although not very quickly), and just loved moving, especially outside.

I started regularly practicing yoga as well. I wanted to tone and, quite honestly, look like Jennifer Aniston and the numerous other celebrities who swore by yoga! What I got was a change of life and a shift in my physical, spiritual, and mental. I loved the connection I felt with my body and how much closer to God I felt because of coming to my mat. I was a better person practicing yoga. But I still struggled with meditation and simply sitting still. And then I had foot surgery…

If you’ve ever had bunions or bone spurs they are extremely painful to walk on. I had abused my feet with heels for years, but I love fashion and with fashion comes cute, and often ill-designed, shoes, which I wasn’t willing to give up just yet. I mean, at 36, the only “comfort” options were shoes I’ve seen 80-year-old women wear. But the pain got to be too much and it was interfering with my yoga so I broke down and had the surgery. And it was hard. Not the surgery itself, although, the recovery is as painful as people say it is, but the limited mobility. It is so hard to have to sit with your foot elevated when you “feel” fine.

I mentioned above, sitting still and just being alone with my thoughts is not easy. I have long had a love-hate relationship with meditation. When I did my first immersion, part of it was a requirement of meditation, and I remember crying through numerous meditations as the thoughts and feelings rose to the surface no matter how many times I tried to block them down. And here I was dealing with that again.

I had gotten very disconnected from my meditation in recent weeks so when I thought about the recovery prior to the surgery, I was actually looking forward to being able to pray and meditate and reconnect. And then the reality of the recovery hit and I found myself battling with my inner demons and thoughts again. Instead of delving into silence, I fought against it. I violated the 5th limb (The fifth limb of yoga is Pratyahara or turning inward!) and used TV and visits from family as a way to distract me from having to meditate and dive deeper into scriptures, for fear of what might happen (you know, I might feel something). The distractions worked for the first few days, but not being able to move and just pelting my brain with useless television shows got to me. I couldn’t practice Asanas (postures adopted in performing hatha yoga) but I could practice Niyama (literally means positive duties or observances).

So that’s what I did. I shut the TV off, I closed my eyes and I began to pray. Prayer led to meditation and then meditation led to studying of scriptures and evaluating feelings and the obstacles going on in my inner self. And then, it happened – Isvara pranidhana (surrender to God). It was so freeing and I was left wondering why I had fought so hard against it. But that’s often how it goes not only in yoga but also in life. We fight so hard to hang onto things, or to get to a certain posture, and it isn’t until we release and let go of that fight that we finally attain what we were aiming for.

While I am not quite at Dhyana (Sanskrit) commonly translated as meditation, is a state of no mind) and my activity is still restricted, I am freer than I was yesterday and the day before and I am closer to discovering my “self”. It is a journey my friend, so don’t hang on too tight. Let go and let God or whatever higher being speak to you. And, above all else, remember “practice and all is coming”. Namaste.



Resources :

Guruji K. Pattabhi Jois

* Weight Watchers International is an American company that offers various products and services to assist weight loss and maintenance



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