When I first began as Calm Within Yoga almost 2 years ago, I did a series of a few blog posts on the Yamas and Niyamas – the ethical restraints and human observances on the 8 limb path of Yoga. Many people know the physical Yoga practice, Asana, the postures, or see Yoga as something you do to make you calm (which is in part true). But very few people in the West know that this is in fact the smallest part of Yoga. For myself, Asana was the gateway that introduced me to the philosophy of Yoga. When I first learnt about it on my Teacher training, the ancient wisdom lit up my soul. Everything spoke about within the teachings was so beautiful. It seemed that it was a blueprint of how to be a good person. And in a dark time of my life, Yoga, the TRUE Yoga, gave me so much hope. These aren’t new concepts however. Yoga has been so often commercialised in the West, with no hint of honouring where it came from. The texts and practices are part of an Eastern lineage that is thousands of years old. Yoga is a path to be followed, a lifestyle to be adopted that can be a way to commit yourself to the divine, just as a devout Christian would commit their life to God or a Muslim to Allah. Yoga itself means union, the root word ‘Yug’ meaning to join together. The joining together of the individual soul with the universal soul, and knowing that the divine exists within all of us. So why should you care about the depth of Yoga, as opposed to just thinking about the moves on your mat?
There are many different sects of Yoga, with different traditions, teachings and ways to practice. I personally follow Raja Yoga (the 8 limb, Royal path or path of meditation), which is deeply interwoven through many sects. I am by no means an expert nor guru, but this is my understanding at this point in time and I truly do believe its important to understand Yoga’s roots, at the very least so they can be acknowledged. The 8 limb path was written about extensively by Sage Patanjali in The Yoga Sutras, one of the most profound texts of Yoga. In The Yoga Sutras, it was the first time that someone had provided a ‘step by step roadmap’ to enlightenment, beginning with observances made in the physical world, and ending with sense withdrawal, meditation and enlightenment. Who knows, we may reach enlightenment in this lifetime, although it could be unlikely. But the focus of this blog post is more to do with the beginning of the 8 limb path, the Yamas and Niyamas, the human observances and ethical restraints, which give us timeless ways to respond in the wider world and prepare our mind for these later stages of the path. I genuinely believe that if everybody practiced even the first Yama (Non harming, and there is definitely a reason why this is the first Yama) the world would be a much more enlightened place. In a world where we in so many ways have lost our way, I sometimes find it confusing that we are striving for further development, looking for the next best technology, rather than reversing that and thinking about what we have lost. Maybe we have lost the grasped concept of ancient wisdom, which, from my understanding, at its core holds the premise that we are all one. That we all have the same essence, the same love within us. If we understand that I am you, and you are me, so in hurting you I hurt myself, would we ever hurt another again? Of course this is multi layered, is easier said than done and takes practice and awareness, but this and more is what Yoga teaches us. The Yamas are as follows: non harming, truthfulness, non stealing/non coveting, celibacy and freedom from greed and desire. The Niyamas are purity/cleanliness, contentment, discipline, self study and surrender to the absolute. Every time I read about these, and especially when I engage in discussions regarding these topics at my workshops or in general, I am always astounded by how applicable they all are to the way we live our lives now, how many ways there are to apply the teachings (it does seem limitless) and how much ease and happiness they can bring to the lives of those who make even the smallest change towards a more yogic lifestyle. My life has been saved by Yoga and I am delighted every day with the new things I learn, even in the things I thought I already knew. Although, I heard a fantastic quote from Jemie Sae Koo in the Love, Sex and Magic podcast the other day – ‘The minute I think I know something is the minute I know nothing’. That will always keep me humble.
Yoga is the most important it has ever been. It is certainly not the only way to discover your true nature and connection to the whole. But if it calls to you, it may well be your path. If you practice the physical side of Yoga but haven’t yet delved deeper into the philosophy, then I encourage you to do so. It very well may change your life.
If you are local to Essex, or even a little further afield, I run monthly workshops entitled ‘Awaken Your Life – A Yoga In Action Workshop’. We touch on a different area of the philosophy in each session with practical ways that you can apply these to your life. These workshops include an hour Vinyasa Flow Yoga Class, half an hour to socialise over tea and homemade vegan snacks and an hour philosophy discussion. They are always such beautiful sessions and the discussion flourishes amongst the participants – I learn something from every one. If you are interested in finding out more, then please drop me an email via the contact form. The next workshop is on Sunday 3rd April, from 12.30PM – 3.00PM at Saints Green Place Yoga Studio. Once again, I am by no means a guru or know it all. I just love sharing what I do know to help others. I also love finding out more myself, and treat these sessions as my own lesson as well as being a facilitator.
Have you discovered Yoga philosophy yet? If so, what’s your favourite part? And if not, what are you eager to find out? Let’s start the discussion in the comments below. I can’t wait to hear from you.
With Love, Light & Best Wishes,