The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali offer many tools & practices for a peaceful mind and life before any mention of physical posture. The Yamas are some of these tools.
They can be described as ways of behaving and interacting with ourselves (including our bodies) and in our relationships with people and the world we live in.
Briefly, the Yamas include:
AHIMSA: Non -violence, compassion … not just physical non-violence, but also non-violence in your thoughts (including about yourself, and your body).
SATYA: Authentic, clear , compassionate & mindful communication and commitment to the truth.
ASTEYA: Non-stealing – we pause before we take and notice the emptiness we may be trying to fill.
BRAMACHARYA: Wise use of energy (Energy of all kinds: physical, emotional, mental, sexual … balance of effort, time and expenditure).
APARIGRAHA: Lack of covetousness, impatience and greed. Not collecting, accumulating, hoarding, cluttering whether physically, mentally or emotionally. We learn to let go when it’s necessary.
To put the Yamas in context, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali recommends the following practices for normal people with busy minds, and together they’re often called the “8 Limbs” of Yoga:
I love to work with people individually because it’s so much easier to get to the heart of what Yoga is and bypass the misconceptions about Yoga.
Misconceptions like, Yoga is about stretching, or that you have to be able to sit in crossed legs on the floor, or that you have to be young, white, slim and bendy, for example.
Where I live in the Huon Valley the population is small so I run just two open public classes, one open to beginners, and one for practiced Yogis. There’s not the population to sustain separate beginner courses. So I get the privilege and joy of seeing both beginners and my long-term Yogis practising together. I get to experience the joy of seeing those long term practitioners who’ve been coming to class for years & have absorbed these aspects of Yoga during our practice together, and who really “get it”…they’re as contented to practise in the Beginner level session as in the more challenging one, They choose from what’s on offer on the night, according to their energy levels and current needs. They don’t feel any need to complicate or embellish the beginner poses into something more. They don’t even bother looking at anyone else let alone comparing themselves to any one else. They no longer see the Yoga poses as tricks to be conquered, but as opportunities to explore, compassionately. They’ve been in my classes long enough to have learned some alternatives to things that don’t work for them and they adapt the poses to suit their bodies whenever they need. They practice as if everything is enough, and they are enough. That’s when I know they get it.
Practising one-to-one with a teacher first is a more direct path to this approach and it’s rare that someone doesn’t start understanding these qualities within the first few sessions if I’m working with them individually…simply because we have more time to pause, recognise intention behind movement or holding patterns in the body, and choose a new approach, moment to moment during an individual session. (And there aren’t other bodies with completely different needs and strengths to compare ourselves with in each practice).
Do you feel drawn to the centuries-old teachings of Yoga & their practical usefulness for modern life & relationships?
My YogaNurture immersion program allows you to both work with me individually on your physical practice, and journey through the teachings of Yoga in a practical, relevant way with the support of a friendly online group. Click here for more information.
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Original photo of tree by Jacob Dyer, from Unsplash