The Study of Yoga – Living Your Yoga
Beyond the physical postures of a yoga practice, there are the eight limbs of yoga ascribed by a man called Patanjali. The first two of these limbs, the Yamas and Nimyamas, are ethical statements to guide our lives, and are a great way to bring your practice off your mat and into your life.
The first five precepts, or Yamas, are as follows:
- Ahimsa – compassion for all living things
- Satya – truth in thought, words, and deeds
- Asteya – not stealing, or not taking what is not freely given
- Brahmacharya – merging your energy with spirit
- Aparigraha – generosity
In looking through this list, it may be fairly easy to see how they can be lived off of your mat. They are reflections of the moral underpinnings found in the religions of the world. The principle of ahimsa can be part of how you decide to respect our earth, especially as we celebrate Earth day this month. We teach the local kindergarteners that putting their trash in the “Basurero” is part of taking care of their living earth. Being honest with ourselves and others, and even not engaging in gossip, is acting on the principle of Satya. Asteya, beyond not stealing someone else’s property, can also be lived by not spending a lot of time on our social media while we are being paid to work (stealing someone’s time). We may live Brahmacharya through honoring the sacredness in all beings, including ourselves (something we give verbiage to each time we use the term Namastè). How differently might I act towards others if I viewed each person as sacred? And Aparigraha can be the principle behind how I give to others, whether it be in material goods or my time and skills.
The second five precepts, or Niyamas, are as follows:
- Saucha – living purely
- Santosha – contentment
- Tapas – disciplined use of your energy
- Svadhyaya – study of self
- Ishvarapranidhana – acting from love, devotion, good intent, and letting go of attachment to results of your actions.
While the Yamas are considered to be ways in which we interact with the world, the Niyamas are considered by many to be personal observances. Saucha can be looked at through how we maintain our physical body, our environment, and even perhaps the types of people or entertainment we surround ourselves with. Santosha is a way of accepting the present moment, so that we use our energy for what is in front of us, rather than running away from it or towards a more desired scenario. Tapas means taking action, and using our actions wisely. Svadhyaya is making sure that we continue to delve into who we are, and to see ourselves accurately, identifying and resolving issues, so that we can be our best in the world. The last Niyama, Ishvarapranidhana, implies acting in the world with our best intentions, without expecting any reward or notice for doing so, kind of like letting our ego take a back seat.
Enjoy living your yoga on and off your mat!