I learnt a new word during a yoga class this week: 'Yama'. Devoted yogis will probably point out that it's hardly a new word, having been around for centuries and centuries, but I'm an occasional yogi (you know the type: Lululemon leggings, Triyoga membership, but still incapable of doing a headstand), and it's been going round and round in my head ever since.
According to Wikipedia, Yama means 'self-restraint, self-control and discipline' (I Googled it sitting on the bench in the changing room straight after class, which is about as bad etiquette as it gets when it comes to yoga; you're supposed to at least wait until you're outside before firing up your iPhone).
According to the yoga teacher who introduced me to it, Yama means not pushing yourself too far.
In a world when we're constantly told to strive for more, to push our limits and test our boundaries, the idea of it being ok - and not just ok, but actually wonderful - to find a comfortable spot and just sit there for a while resonated.
The class teacher was thinking about it after her own yoga instructor pointed out she was pushing herself just that little bit too far in her poses, and realised that was a pretty good analogy for her entire life - queue a murmur of agreement across the floor. Each extra stretch was fine by itself, but add that all up and she was putting unnecessary stress on her body, and elsewhere also her mind.
Socially we're all guilty of it. The Thursday night drinks invite that you're too tired to make, but FOMO (fear of missing out) means you head out anyway, and pay for it with an unproductive (possibly hungover) Friday.
In yoga, the idea shouldn't be to leave a class feeling like you've been steam-rollered into the floor, and life is pretty much the same. That doesn't just count for how hard we party, but how hard we work as well.
In his recent HuffPost blog, Chris Deaver proposes that instead of working harder and smarter, we start working creatively instead. He used to work for a newspaper where his boss told him to work "as if I had a gun to my head", but now believes that to get ahead you need to connect with an inspiring vision and connect creatively with others.
We'd all like a little more; a little more in our pay cheque, a little more square footage in our house. All that means we spend a lot of time looking at what others have and craving it for ourselves, rather than counting our blessings for what we have today.
My yoga class ended with the suggestion that instead of pushing ourselves too far, we go out and "find things in life that feed you, not deplete you". When I Googled yama on my phone straight after class, I also typed that mantra into my to-do list.
It's sensible advice in a world that always pushes for that little bit more. And sometimes that little bit too much.Suggest a correction