We’re a group of double dippers, those of us working behind the scenes at 8 Limbs, that is. What you all see in terms of 8 Limbs offerings––our marketing campaigns, our general communication––is a direct reflection of the work and conversations we’re having behind the scenes. We’re not reinventing the wheel in what we outwardly express. We’re filling the tires, so to speak, on the wheels that make up the foundation, mission and core values of 8 Limbs.
Our current studio and citywide poster campaign, “Give The Gift of…(Breath, Heart, Spirit)” is one such example of our tire-filling-double-dipping ways. While these posters are a public call to give the gift of yoga this holiday season, behind the scenes at 8 Limbs they are a prompt to bring our practice off of our mats and into the day-to-day operations at 8 Limbs. They remind us of why we practice yoga during a season when cultural momentum can make it otherwise difficult to stay grounded. More specifically, in cultivating these gifts of yoga we do three things. We become more able to enjoy numerous other gifts, including the gifts of ritual, tradition and generosity. We increase our likelihood of being in harmony with our values and deeper sense of purpose. And we up our capacity to support our community in doing the same. Let me explain.
8 Limbs has a long history of bumping up against our capacity. Our creativity and passion at times outpace our bandwidth and reserves. (Perhaps some of you can relate?) In response, we’ve developed, over the years, various systems of checks and balances to help us set more realistic boundaries. But like with much of life, tackling this issue by only engaging our mental faculties (in our case, creating policies, procedures and tactical strategies) isn’t always sufficient. An overemphasis on output, whether as a company like 8 Limbs getting ungrounded by our passion or as an individual getting carried away with the material or party nature of the season, we aren’t simply risking maxing out our present bandwidth. We also are often depleting our reserves. And the thing about reserves is that they affect both our in-the-moment presence and our future bandwidth. That is, sometimes it’s not enough to say no, to pass on opportunities or goods, as exciting as they may be. To really regain equanimity in our bandwidth, we sometimes must also tend to what is referred to in yogic philosophy as our ojas.
Ojas, a Sanskrit word for vigor, refers to essential life energy. From a yogic and ayurvedic perspective, ojas serves to sustain our physical bodies, balance our emotions and bring clarity to our minds. When our ojas is strong we are supported in living and loving fully. When our ojas is weak we can feel like we’re running on empty, we may find ourselves getting off track, taking missteps or falling apart.
Over the years those of us behind the scenes at 8 Limbs have gotten to know the signs of depleted ojas as a business. Sometimes it shows up in the form of decisions made out of fear rather than our values and actions. Those decisions rarely work out in the long run. Sometimes we discover numerous inconsistencies and points of confusion, typically a frustrating experience for others. Sometimes we find the signs in the aftermath of dropping the ball in some key area, usually not a very fun or pretty mess to clean up. Most of the time, when 8 Limbs as a business is operating at less than it’s best, our ojas is low.
A handful of years ago though we made a commitment through our strategic plan to own our mistakes as well as our successes. Making this commitment not only helped us to notice when we were tapping out our reserves, it pushed us to take actions to fortify our ojas. Our annual Give The Gift of…campaign was born out of this push. For 8 Limbs to bring our mission to life we understand we must collectively as a business, and individually as staff, tend to our vitality. To authentically hold space for others to tap into the gifts of yoga we recognize how important it is that we do the same. Through this process we thankfully have also come to further appreciate the signs of healthy ojas. Our skillfulness around discernment rises. Our workload becomes less arduous and more rewarding. And we tend to hit the mark with our programming.
Below you’ll find a simple practice for cultivating ojas that I led our Leadership Team through last week. It is from this place that I invite you to give and receive the gifts of breath, heart and spirit to yourself, to your loved ones, to your community. Consider giving actual pauses, those deep internal breaths that allow us to digest what’s happening in and around us. Look for opportunities to offer distinct experiences of heart-felt presence that remind us that we are all connected, that we belong. Explore concrete steps to nourish your soul, or the souls of others, in order to nurture a deep sense of purpose. When we choose the path of “filling tires”, of tending to our ojas, as a way of giving and receiving, we’re also cultivating a form of radiance, one that brings more light into this season and world.
Giving & Receiving The Gift Of… Practice
- Close your eyes or soften your gaze. Take a few deep grounding breaths or whatever helps you to ground into the here and now, letting the myriad of other details you may be tracking or working on take a rest for a bit.
- Once you feel settled, take a few moments to reflect on the benefits of breath. This can be about the physical benefits of literally inhaling and exhaling. It can be about the symbolic nature of taking a pause or creating spaciousness.
- Now reflect on the benefits of an open and healthy heart. You may want to think about the important functions the heart plays in your body. You may want to think about the difference a healthy and expressive emotional heart can make.
- Next consider what a full spirit can offer. What does it feel like when you nurture your spirit? What does it feel like in your body? What does it feel like in your heart?
- I invite you now to consider ways that you are actively, have recently, or plan to soon receive the gift of breath, heart or spirit.
- And now consider how how you are actively, have recently or could soon give the gift of breath, heart of spirit? This could mean giving these gifts to yourself. It could mean giving these gifts to others.
- When you’re ready to come out, take a few grounding breaths and slowly open your eyes. If it’s helpful, journal or share with someone you trust, what came up for you in this practice.
Posted by: Ashley Dahl, MSW
8 Limbs Executive Director Ashley Dahl holds a BA in philosophy from Boston University and earned her Masters in Social Work from the University of Washington. Prior to working at 8 Limbs she oversaw youth development programs for the city of Seattle and provided training and advocacy services across Washington State. Getting out in nature year-round keeps Ashley feeling whole. Traveling, art, food and a bit of sass are some favorite ways she connects with others.