Rituals, routines or habits.
aware of everything around and within us, and what we are doing, is regarded as a very important attribute in our yoga lives.
It is sometimes said that we should be aware of every breath we take, every action, every response our bodies make
to the world around us. There is also an idea that we should do everything as though it were a new discovery.
In real life this is impossible to achieve. What we need to do, is to differentiate between those
actions which can be repeated without always having 100% attention, and those which do. Both mindful, and
mindless actions, can have positive and negative aspects.
Mindless Habits and Routines
Can save time. Experienced drivers perform manoeuvres which tax every fibre of brain power a learner
might have. The danger of course is that we do not concentrate when we need to.
They may remove the need for decision making. Knowing that on a particular day you change the bed
sheets, allows you to forget the issue for the rest of the week. Conversely they could mean that you miss
out on spontaneous variety in your life.
It is reassuring to have routines, but they can become very limiting, especially if others are involved.
Visiting an elderly relative at the same time regularly, can create tensions if the routine is broken.
There is also the danger that routines can become empty repetitions, or social niceties without meaning.
Mindful Habits and Routines
Can accentuate experiences. Sometimes even doing simple things like brushing our teeth slowly and
with total concentration can make us aware of feelings and the meaning of our actions.
They can heighten awareness. Savouring wine and fine food in the mouth, against swallowing quickly
is yogic in the awareness which is developed. We need to recognise that in so doing we may have to divert
resources. Trying to enjoy a good meal, watch TV and have a discussion on an important issue, can`t all
be done at the same time.
can enrich our lives by focusing on one thing at a time. Rather than expecting our overworked left brain
to cope with everything at once, we can also open the right brain to become much more creative and involved in our actions.
Rituals, ideally are repetitious actions
which are done with awareness. Unfortuanately they can easily become meaningless habits
or routines. Often they are the codified remains of ancient practices whose origins are now all but lost.
Many of the rituals of our festivals, such as bringing in the holly at Christmass, eating fig pudding on Palm Sunday,
baptising babies or giving horseshoes to brides are seldom understood, and remain as quaint survivors from
Like all habits, rituals can however help
to reinforce the meaning and value of what we do. In our yoga practice meaningful rituals have a valuable
Symbols can be seen as ritualistic objects or icons. Again to be useful they need to
be meaningful to us. Some symbols are universal affecting us on both conscious and subconscious levels.
Some symbols which might be useful in your practice of yoga could be:-
A picture or statue of
your god - keeps the ultimate experience, becoming one with
the Divine, in you rmind.
A Candle - in yoga caln be seen as the Akhanda Jyoti, the eternal flame, it represents the element
fire, our masculine nature, and the living aspect of God.
Incense - smoke is used in many cultures to cleanse the air. Smoke is also seen
as a prayer rising to heaven, and represents the element air.
A container of Water - as the element of water. Water is cleansing and cooling.
It represents the feminine within us.
A Stone or bowl of earth - reminding us that we are of the earth.
Your mat - represents your sacred space.
Removing clothing or restrictive watch straps etc - symbolises the freedom yoga offers, and that we
are opening ourselves to the Divine. Yogis who wear the Indian lungi (sarong), choose cloth which is unstitched,
again representing the lack of ties.
Bhakti yoga, is the Yoga of Devotion, where the aspirant focuses their actions on their love
of God. It is the path attractive to those of a religious nature. The rituals and prayers
then become very special offerings to God. Rituals can be incorporated into many different aspects of your
day. To begin the day with a few minutes of prayer or meditation is a particularly valuable way in which
A puja is a daily ritual, honouring ones own chosen diety, or concept of god (ishta devata).
Sometimes they are seen as invocations, receptions and entertainments for our god. In traditional
Indian yogic and Hindu circles morning and evening pujas, called aarti, may be highly developed and very complex, especially
in temples. For yogis the morning puja is always done before breakfast. Keeping
our puja simple can help to make it both easier to maintain, and also more acceptable in our western minds. Essentially
what we are doing is welcoming the Divine into our lives at the start of the day, and giving thanks at the end.
Create a shrine to suit your own beliefs and tastes. This may be an ornate altar with rich coverings
and the finest silver vessels and icons. Or you may prefer a simple board with wooden and ceramic vessels
On your shrine, place an image or statue of your god, a candle or light, and any other symbols
Each morning visit the shrine taking an offering, a few flowers which can be left, a coin
to be sent to charity, or even a small scoop of bird seed. Open nearby curtains to let in the morning light.
Clean the shrine and light the candle or burner. Burn incense if you wish. Place
your offering on the altar as a gift.
Now spend some time in thoughtful prayer.
There is no need to presume to ask God for what you want. Focus on realising that your God is with
you and will be with you through the day. Hindus recite the Gayatri mantra. You may
wish to use the Lord`s, or other prayers. Try to allow a little time without structured thought.
Let your mind be open and receptive.
To finish, take your leave in whatever way seems appropriate.
It may be necessary, or wise, to snuff the candle. Offerings like bird seed can be taken and sprinkled
outside then, or the next morning.
At any time using the anjali mudra (palms together, thumbs
touching the heart) honours your conception of god or the divine.
then to breakfast - eating with awareness and appreciation.