I am inspired to share more behind the philosophy of the yoga practice. Yoga has purpose beyond the physical asana/movement to transform our overall life perspectives and increase our capacity to have contentment. Let’s explore the 8 Limbs of Yoga, which have greatly deepened my understanding of the practice.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali were written between 1700-2200 years ago and this ancient text provides us with an 8 fold path to living a Yogic life. This text gives us with a framework for the Yoga practice, for understanding the inner workings of the mind/body and serves as a blueprint for experiencing peace. We are going to explore the first two limbs of this 8 fold path. Neither of which are asana or movement based. I encourage you to look deeper into these two limbs through self-reflection and make greater connections on how we apply these principles to our lives and our practice. Each limb is in Sanskrit, but I have offered translations and descriptions based on my understanding of each. Perhaps read them slowly, or one to two a day. These first two limbs had the capacity to change your life.
Principles of right relations to the world, universal ethics and morality. There are five Yamas or behaviors to be practiced as part of daily life; intended to purify human nature and contribute to the health and happiness of society.
Compassion for all living things. Non-violence, non-harming to any creature or living thing. Awareness of our actions, our speech and thoughts. This also means expressing kindness, compassion for all life and things. We adopt a consideration and responsibility to do no harm. We practice constructive speech and understanding.
This is our commitment to truthfulness. To speak the truth on all occasions and to practice honesty even with ones self. To be more virtuous in our thoughts, speech and actions. Be more considerate with how we communicate, do not lie and communicate without distorting things.
Non- stealing. Do not take what does not belong to us. This refers to the taking of someones belongings, thoughts, energy, trust and space. We do not take what has not been given to us freely, including being more conscious of others time and attention.
Sense control and moderation of senses. Traditionally suggests abstinence and celibacy in a sexual manner, but also refers to withdrawal from senses of desire. Practicing this control or moderation helps to build up and maintain our highest level of vitality. Stepping away from over-indulgence on all levels, food, sex, lust, activity, pleasures. To foster healthier relationships with all of these aspects of life.
Means to take only what is necessary, to not take advantage or act greedy. To only take what we have earned or need as to not exploit anyone else. This implies, letting go of our attachments and trusting that the universe is abundant and will provide and support us. Non- attachment to material things and possessions, avoiding excessive consuming.
Personal observances, rules or laws prescribed for right relations to self. Adopting these five Niyama principles creates a structure for living with a clean and moral soul.
Meaning purity and cleanliness both internally and externally. Outer cleanliness refers to bodily cleansing. Maintaining a healthy appearance, daily washing and bodily cleansing habits for the skin. Purifying the body also involves good diet, healthy food and clean organs. (Asana and Pranayama as a means to cleansing) This Niyama also looks at pure thoughts free from anger, hatred, passion and lust. (Meditation)
Contentment. Feel content with what we have. To be at peace within and happy with ones lifestyle regardless of the difficulties. Accepting that there is a purpose to everything and to be content with ones process of growth. To make the most out of everything by practicing gratitude and acceptance regardless of what the situation is.
This is the disciplined use of our energy or disciplined use of our spiritual fire. When we are able to pay attention to what we eat, attention to thoughts, restraint or moderation to desires we literally heat up the body with our own fire (tapas). It is the internal practice of keeping body/mind fit to handle inner/external urges. This connection to disciplined fire helps to burn up other desires that keep us from reaching total union.
Self study, self inquiry and examination. This includes any activity that cultivates self reflective consciousness. To intentionally find more ways to increase self awareness and over come personal limitations through continued learning, devotion, scripture, texts and prayer. Self study and increased knowledge translates to greater self awareness.
Celebration of the Spiritual. Traditionally, this is the recognition of the creator. An understanding or surrendering that all comes from the creator, through the creator and we recognize our role as part of the creator. It encourages us to set time aside each day to honour that there is a larger force then ourselves, that is guiding and directing the course of our lives. This is the practice of letting go and cultivating faith, dedication and serenity.
We highly recommend journaling any thoughts or ideas that come up when reading these. We speak about this in depth in our 50 Hours of Philosophy & The Evolution of the Practice included in our 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training.
With peace and love,