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#1 Yoga off the mat

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

After years of studying and practicing yoga, I have realised that the strength and positivity it creates comes from more than the physical practice and is not something that continues to flow through us like a stream.

Even for yogic masters and Buddhist monks there are ebbs and flows, ups and downs and challenges that affect emotions in a negative way. The interactions we have all contribute to the way that these patterns in life affect us.

“Rather than experiencing contentment, we can find ourselves busy getting ready for the next thing, tossed about by our preferences for what we like and what we don’t like, and riding the waves of annoying disturbances.”

The sage Patanjali brought us the 8 limbs of yoga in Sanskrit to help us cope with the ebb and flow of life and to feel at peace within ourselves. The physical asanas (postures) are only one of those 8 limbs. The two that come before it are - Yama and niyama, also known as the Yama's and Niyama's. These simple guidelines that we all know deep down and mostly follow, our own moral compass, are written down for us in a way that can make us think or see the things that are causing us to feel uneasy or even contract physical disease in the form of viruses, aches, pains and all kinds of suffering.

The Yama's relate to the physical world around us;

  • Ahimsa - Non violence

  • Satya - Truthfulness

  • Asteya - Non stealing

  • Brahmacharya - Self restraint

  • Aparigraha - Non greediness

The Niyama's relate to our inner world and how we treat ourselves;

  • Saucha - Hygiene

  • Santosha - Contentment/Self acceptance

  • Tapas - Discipline/enthusiasm/fire in the belly.

  • Svadhyaya - study/self knowledge

  • Isvara Pranidhana - Surrender to a deity, teacher, guru or our own spirit with it’s knowledge and guidance.

To sum up, my own interpretation so far is that we are not striving for perfection (we could but in my experience this leads to obsession and depression so balance is always key), merely awareness of these guidelines and the knowing that the consequences of not following them do lead to pain for ourselves and sometimes others. The consequences of carrying them out reap great rewards and benefits.

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