Yoga and 8 Steps towards Freedom – Yamas & Niyamas
For many, the concept of Yoga practice conjures up an image of bodies on rubber mats in a studio, or at a private residence, navigating their way through a series of postures. For many students, their initial motivation is just to “do” Yoga. To benefit from Yoga fully however, we eventually need to familiarise and then immerse ourselves in Yoga Philosophy, which encourages learning and growth in our lives, well beyond the time on the mat.
As a Yoga teacher, I have been mindful that there is a vast difference between instruction and education. I have always thought it is important to combine the two and share with my students the benefits of a regular practice, which goes beyond the asanas and incorporates the 8 Limbs of Patanjali Path, which addresses us on a physical, mental and spiritual level.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are a collection of 196 sutras (or aphorisms) on the Art and Science of Yoga. According to these sutras, there is an eight-fold path leading to liberation, known as the ‘Ashtanga Yoga System’ with the word ‘ashta’ meaning ‘eight’ and ‘anga’ meaning ‘limb’.
With that in mind, I have decided that my next block of yoga classes commencing on 26th of July, will offer gentle insights from Yoga Philosophy pertaining to the “8 Limbs of Patanjali Path” or as I call it “8 Steps towards Freedom” on and off the mat. In the upcoming 10 week course we will look at the first two steps, Step 1 being the Yamas and Step 2 being the Niyamas and explore yogic values of loving kindness, honesty, simplicity, gratitude and much more.
Whilst the classes will offer the yogasana (of course) I will share with you some practical ideas for the pathways to be observed , and integrated into your everyday Life.
What are they you might ask?
As described by the B.K.S. Iyengar , The Eight Limbs are:
|1.||Yama :||Universal moral commandments or Social Ethics|
|2.||Niyama :||Personal Ethics|
|3.||Asanas :||Body Postures|
|4.||Pranayama :||Breathing techniques|
|5.||Pratyahara :||Control of the senses|
|6.||Dharana :||Concentration and cultivating Awareness|
|8.||Samadhi :||Enlightenment or Ultimate Freedom|
There are 5 Yamas and 5 Niyamas.
I like to think that the Yamas are about the Don’ts and the Niyamas are about the Do’s.
As an example, let’s look at one Yama and one Niyama:
Ahimsa translates as ‘do no harm’ or ‘non- violence’
This is towards others and particularly to self. Harm can be through your thoughts, words or actions. Whilst this may seem obvious, on closer inspection we come to see that our interpretation of what is harming or violent towards others seems quite clear, however, what is less clear is how we apply this to self. For example: negative thoughts about self are an act of violence. Pushing yourself to achieve a yoga pose when your body is not ready to accept the pose is self-harming.
Doing no harm to others does not mean you become a doormat for other people!
The wonderful Dr. Brene Brown says : “‘The most compassionate people are most boundaried’
Santosha translates as ‘Contentment’ or ‘Gratitude’
I wonder how many of you have had this thought
“ I will be happier when…….??? then you list those things.
For a time, you may even believe that you are happier if you achieve them, however, as everything is impermanent, then so too is happiness. Eventually, you will seek something to replace that, then the next thing and so on.
Santosha is based on the concept that whilst goals, dreams, and aspirations are natural, we will find greater contentment when we are not chasing our joy from outside ourselves.
Searching outside ourselves for happiness in any form, whether it be substances, people or possessions, just leads to yet more searching.
We find ourselves on an endless cycle of happiness, sadness, love and fear. We become bound by our own discontent and the freedom we seek eludes us.
As an example, when we are on the mat in class, how many of us take a sneaky peek at our neighbour during a pose and maybe harbor some discontent that we aren’t as flexible, strong, posed etc. What if we could accept that we are just perfectly where we are at that time, in that pose? To be content with the work and effort we have achieved in that time and place.
Santosha fosters an “ attitude of gratitude” for self and promotes feelings of contentment from within oneself.
I look forward to sharing greater insights of the Yamas and Niyamas and their application in your everyday lives in the next block of Yoga sessions
for more information, please click on the course details link below:
6.15 pm – 7.30 pm
Venue: Adelaide Theosophical Society
Lev 1, 310 South Tce, Adelaide CBD