Way way beyond the asanas and yoga as a popular way to get/stay in shape stands something different – yoga as a bridge between body, mind and spirit and a lifelong journey deep into the ethical principles of living. Sure you’re better off moving than not moving, doing the asanas alone rather then doing nothing, but yoga is a principle on how to process the world we’re here to experience together, it’s a way to be.
Below the surface stand the guidelines which tell us how to treat others and ourselves – the yamas and niyamas. The Yamas are: AHIMSA – the practice of non-violence to all living things, including ourselves. This includes harmful destructive or auto destructive thoughts and habits. Love is all permeating through all relationships so do all you do in love and gratitude, no matter what you encounter on the other side. SATYA means simply truthfulness. Tell the truth as it is the only way to see and act in the world that doesn’t create more suffering than necessary. This will demand integrity and will keep the non-violence from becoming passivity, while non-violence will keep the truthfulness from becoming a weapon for our own gains. Choose to be real rather than just nice. ASTEYA means not stealing, literally and figuratively, to not demand things that don’t belong to us or envy the possessions of others. Possession is an illusion anyway. BRAMACHARYA talks about excess, self-indulgence and learning to live within “enough”, the conscious funnelling of energy that doesn’t abuse any are of life, but takes only what it needs. APARIGRAHA means non-possessiveness, relinquishing of the need to hoard in greedy neediness and letting go of attachments, clinging and constant grasping for more. You can enjoy things, people and moments without attaching to them in unhealthy co-dependency.
The niyamas are: SAUCA, purity or cleanliness of the body, mind and actions. Here, we don’t fear any aspect of ourselves and are free to move on to SANTOSHA or contentment which comes from acceptance and appreciation of all that comes. This guideline insists upon the internal locus of contentment which is not tied to the outside circumstance. Practice gratitude for all things, even the ones that might seem unfavourable to the ego. The next niyama is TAPAS, which literally translates as heat, meaning that we do our best whenever we can and that the fire of this discipline transforms us. The heat offers only two options – breaking down or breaking open. Keep the discipline. SVADHIYAYA means self-study, getting to know yourself, recognizing the patterns, responses, traumas and desires. Meditation is extremely helpful to quiet down the mind enough to be able to just observe, not judging or labelling. The last one is ISVARA PRANIDHANA which urges you to stay humble and surrender, to stay active, present and fluid i the moment and try to understand the lack of your own knowledge, all the while staying in awe faced with the wonderful thing we’re all participating in as one.
Each branch is equally important as the other ones and we’re all human, fallible and trying. Find the one(s) you’ve been slipping at lately and use the weekend to realign. Be kind to yourselves, be kind to others. We’re all in the same boat and the horizon is vast and unexplored.