The Yamas and Niyamas are the backbone of Yogic philosophy and a guide to conscious living. Even though these teachings are basically common sense, they require deep contemplation. (If you’re ever looking for intense-but-meaningful conversation starters, these would fit the bill.)
The five Yamas demand training your actions, speech, and thoughts:
1. Ahimsa (Non-harming)
This is the practice of non-violence toward all living beings, reacting passively without aggression when faced with confrontation. It's a true way to promote peaceful living.
2. Satya (Truthfulness)
Living the simplicity of truthfulness is a clean and clear path. Practicing this brings out the good in everyone. This is our natural state, but it's often forgotten in our daily life.
3. Asteya (Non-stealing)
Living free from greed is to be content with what we have. Isn't that a joyous thought?
4. Bramachariya (Remembering the higher reality)
During the acts of loving and giving, we lose energy and become mentally and physically depleted. Without mental and physical strength, we cannot gain spiritual wealth. Don’t forget to recharge and replenish yourself.
5. Aparigraha (Non-possessiveness)
Aparigraha reminds us it is possible to accept without feeling obligated, to give without expectation. It's good to practice detachment from desire, whether in material form or a desire for human attention. By doing this, we can begin to see that the attachments that once held us no longer do.
The five Niyamas focus on the relationship with the self:
1. Saucha (Purity)
Saucha is cleanliness of body, heart, mind and environment. Its practice involves keeping your diet fresh and healthy. Regular meditation will help clear the mind of discrimination and unbalanced thoughts, ultimately achieving a constant flow of even thinking and mental purity. It's not just about food, however. The space you keep should be clean and un-cluttered. Achieving this helps gain focus and clarity of mind.
2. Santosha (Contentment)
This is the idea of being content and happy as you are, without needing to search beyond yourself. When something good comes to you, let it come, if it doesn’t come then it doesn’t matter. Contentment is not about liking or disliking; it's a neutral state.
3. Tapas (Discipline)
The true meaning of Tapas is to burn. To partake in physical Tapas is to fast and burn toxins that have accumulated within the body. Mental Tapas is to burn old thought patterns, making a conscious effort to achieve union with the higher self.
Tapas is a spiritual discipline to help transform the self and purify the system. It relies not only on regular yoga practice, but the ability to take care of the body with awareness.
4. Svadhyaya (Study)
Svadhyaya is to study spiritual scriptures that enhance the purity of the mind. Creating a regular Sadhana will strengthen every aspect of the soul, but it takes discipline to achieve a daily yogic routine. However, once it becomes a regular part of life, the benefits begin to accumulate.·
5. Ishvara Pranidhana (Surrender)
To the western mind, surrendering to a higher force may be daunting. Many of us turn to prayer only when there has been a life-changing issue. The concept of Ishvara Pranidhana is to surrender oneself to regular yogic practice so that discipline is gained and prayer is constant—rather than a cry for help during a stressful time—leading to a healthier, happier, holier life.
Your yoga practice is about the true you, not how far you can bend. Be patient and listen to your body. Train your mind to be gentle and loving as if it were a small child.
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