Yoga at Makers Academy
Welcome to Part 2 of Coding and Yoga Unite (click here for Part 1).
In part 1, we observed that many people think of Yoga as just about physical postures although, Asana (Sanskrit for physical posture) is actually only 1 out of 8 limbs of Yoga, based on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. We also looked at the Yamas (restraints) and how they might correlate with programming principles and concepts. Turns out you can code like a Yogi!
Headstands, Unix books and Yoga blocks
8 limbs of Yoga
Yamas — Restraints (covered in part 1)
Niyamas — Observations
Asana — Physical posture
Pranayama — Breathing practice
Pratyhara — Withdrawal from senses
Dhahrana — Intense focus
Dhyana — Meditation
Samadhi — Oneness
Continuing my exploration of the friendship between coding and Yoga, let’s look at the the second limb, the 5 Niyamas (positive observations). These virtues are considered in Hinduism necessary for an individual to achieve a self-realised, liberated state. Whatever your beliefs are, maintaining emotional and mental harmony is beneficial for all individuals. I asked some MA Yoga students how they interpreted the 5 Niyamas along their 12 week coding journey and here’s what they had to say:
5 NIYAMAS (Sanskrit: नियम) — literally meaning positive duties or observations
1. Sauca — Purity
Meaning purity and cleanliness. Sauca has both an inner and an outer aspect. Looking after one’s body as well as seeking a clarity of mind and purity of heart.
Mara Wanot — “For me, Yoga is as much about exercise as it is about detoxifying the system and about keeping my mind clear. Balancing postures in particular keep me focused on the present moment. After practice, I have a sense of clearing out the tensions in both body and mind and I feel like I can take on the coding world. In other words, clear mind produces clean code :D”
2. Santosa — Contentment
To be at peace with one’s circumstances and to reach for understanding of the goodness and purpose behind it.
Matt Ward — “Yoga teaches contentment with what we have, and this is a discipline that relates for me as a developer. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the sense that you’re not a good developer, and feel as if you aren’t as good as others. When these feelings arise, it’s important to take a step back and be content with the knowledge and ability you have right now. We are all better than we give ourselves credit for, and it’s important to note our achievements when they happen; whether it is writing some awesome code, or owning that Vriksasana (Tree Pose).”
3. Tapas — Disciplined use of our energy
Tapas refers to the activity of keeping the body fit or to confront and handle the inner urges. Literally, it means to heat the body and, by so doing, to cleanse it.
Michael Harrison — “A big part of it (yoga) for me is the self-discipline it teaches. It’s hard (really hard), and a lot of the time I just want to collapse on the floor. It takes a lot of focus to hold a pose for an extended period of time, but I love the intense feeling that comes with trying to find that focus, and it’s good to know that I’m doing something difficult for my own good. Learning to code is difficult, but not as difficult as your third Utkatasana (chair pose) of the day.”
4. Svadhyaya — Self study
To intentionally find self-awareness in all our activities and welcoming and accepting our limitations. It teaches us to be centred and non-reactive to the dualities, to burn out unwanted and self-destructive tendencies.
Dovile Sandaite: “Yoga has taught me to listen to myself with more compassion, accept the limits of my body and honestly examine the well-being of my mind. When I feel good at a pose and it doesn’t require much effort to achieve, I remind myself to push my boundaries and stretch deeper. Similarly, when I’m satisfied with my code then try to refactor the code in a more elegant way.
It can be tough to observe the boundaries of my body and mind during practice; it’s also difficult to discover and accept the limitations of my skills or knowledge when coding.
Every time I have to delete the code I wrote and start from scratch, it’s like falling out of the balance pose in Yoga practice. I have to remind myself that it is okay, I can try again.
I’ve learned it’s not helpful to get angry with myself, embracing my limits lets me find the courage to overcome challenges. With this awareness I can say: “The pose begins when you want to leave it” (- B.K.S Iyengar) in the same way that “coding begins when you find a problem too big to solve at the first glance”.
5. Isvarapranidhana — Celebration of the Spiritual
This practice requires that we recognise that there is something larger than ourselves, whether it’s an omnipresent being, the universe or just the bigger picture.
Alex Swan: “Spiritual, the spirit, being at one with life and everything around us. What does it mean? The answer is I don’t know. Yoga being a calming practice to balance one physically and mentally would surely relax one’s spiritual self, would it not? It really depends on what you believe.
Yoga leads me to a private celebration of the calm and tranquility that resides in the obvious and the mundane, and the beauty in the unique. I don’t always feel this grounded when practicing but there are moments during Savasana (final resting pose) that have made me more in touch with my own sense of spirituality than I have done in years. Maybe the tumultuous practice of Yoga and code combined has led me to this point, and I’ve greeted it with wide open arms.”
Thank you everyone for sharing your inspiring insights and observations. Reminds me of one of my favourite quotes:
“Anyone can work out but, it takes a Yogi to work in” — Anonymous.
Thanks to you, dear reader, for allowing me to explore this idea of Coding and Yoga with you. I’ll end this post how I often end my Yoga classes:
*palms together at heart centre, eyes closed, bowes head “…and may your heart and head be very good friends — Namaste”
Chief Joy Officer®