Going to a yoga class is only the first step. Once you’re there, you’ll learn to observe your thoughts, attitudes and responses to the poses, the others in the class and your teacher. When something arises during your practice, can you learn to soften and breathe - again and again?
Then you take your awareness into real life. Notice yourself and all that is around you. Can you use your breath as a tool to become less reactive?
There are some additional tools that can make your yoga practice - and your life practice - more powerful and create greater potential for change and personal growth. They are the first two limbs of yoga - the Yamas and the Niyamas. The ethical and moral codes.
The Yamas - Morality
Ahimsa - Compassion. Be kind. Non-violence. Do no harm. Be responsible. This is considered by many to be the most important practice that trumps all others. Sri Dharma Mittra says that without compassion, there is no yoga in your asana.
Satya - Tell the truth. Think about how you speak the truth. How can you go inside and find your own personal truth? Are we blasting people with our truth or squirreling it away where no one can see it? And, remember, once you find your truth, practice Ahimsa, compassion. What might that mean in your life?
Asteya - Don’t Steal. Don’t take advantage of situations where people have put their trust in you. Be respectful of people’s time.
Brahmacharya - Don’t waste energy.
Aparigraha - Don’t be possessive. Only take what you need.
The Niyamas - Personal Observances
Sauca - Cleanliness - internal and external. Practice asana, pranayama. Make the body and mind as strong and clear as you can. These practices benefit the body in this way and help clear the mind and body of the effects of anger, hatred, delusion etc. But don’t pretend. Be honest with yourself and do the work. Keep your sense of humor.
Santosa - Contentment. Can you be at peace with what you have even as you pass through both the enjoyments and challenges of life? Even as you are working towards a goal?
Tapas - Develop discipline of practice and you can handle life’s ups and downs and use these experiences for growth, wisdom, and greater compassion.
Svadhyaya - Be aware of yourself. Your actions and intentions. Learn. Be honest and move towards growth.
Isvarapranidhana - Surrender to something greater than yourself. This can mean different things to different people. Whatever your religion or faith, spend some time with it each day.
I get so much more from yoga than I ever thought possible when I began. Yoga is a lifestyle for me; a set of principles that guide me and keep me on a path to greater self-awareness and more thoughtful, loving behavior. I see my whole life through this lens. This practice grounds me and, when I face my challenges and make mistakes, it keeps bringing me back to being calm, to being myself.
I’ve enjoyed learning about yoga philosophy and the many practical uses in my life. There are many translations, interpretations and discussions on these Sanskrit concepts. This is a taste. If something resonates, delve further.
Let this practice help you learn and grow. Please leave a comment about any aspect of your experience of yoga. I would love to hear from you!