The YAMAS! The Golden "Do's" of a Yoga Practice...
Yoga Pad Henley. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, Henley-on-Thames. Beginners welcome.
The Yamas & Niyamas: The Ten Commandments of Yoga!
So, I thought I might start telling you guys about some of the other parts of a traditional yoga practice. In the West, a yoga practice has become much more of a physical practice, focusing mainly on the physical asana. Well, that is great, and obviously we LOVE the physical practice! It makes us feel alive, calm, healthy, happy and all that jazz. But the physical practice is just ONE of the EIGHT LIMBS of YOGA. I’m going to start today with telling you about the “Do’s and Don’ts” - the first TWO LIMBS of ASHTANGA YOGA.
The Yamas can also be called the “Do’s” or “Golden Rules” of Yoga. They are moral, ethical, spiritual guidelines on how best to live a life of balance and to work towards the sublime goal of spiritual development.
1. AHIMSA (Non-violence)
This essentially means having compassion. For ALL living things, including oneself. I would bet that sometimes you wouldn’t talk to your best friend or loved one in the same harsh way you would talk to yourself! Ahimsa means to not hurt or harm ourselves or any other living being. It works on the proviso that we are all connected, and so by hurting someone else, you are only hurting yourself anyway and of course vice versa.
2. SATYA (Truthfulness)
This doesn’t mean just blurting out what you think all the time, regardless of how your words will be taken. When speaking your truth to those around you, remember to deliver your words with care and compassion. Be truthful to yourself before you speak. “Is this coming from a place of love and kindness?” If the answer is yes, then sure, go ahead! Speak your truth. If not, then wait. Satya is the practice of being truthful to not only those around us, but to ourselves and with ourselves and our motives.
3. ASTEYA (Non-stealing)
This is a tricky one, as it doesn’t just mean non-stealing in the physical sense of money or possessions (although that is obviously a good place to start!). Asteya means being able to cultivate a feeling of completeness and abundance in ones-self, in order that you do not selfishly demand time, or energy, or attention from others in order to fill up your own void. It means to start cultivating a practice of gratitude. Feeling grateful and observing all that we have rather than what we lack will enable us to practice Asteya more easily.
4. BRAMACHARYA (Control of the senses)
Traditionally this was interpreted as abstinence from sex (celibacy). Now of course, you can still choose to practice celibacy if that’s your bag! But I have diluted it a little bit here to enable it to be interpreted in a more contemporary sense. The reason for abstinence was to maintain purity of prana and the keep that prana (energy/life flow) in ones own body. Today, we could consider how we ‘use’ our own sexual energy. I think it can mean to not allow your body to be used as a ‘thing’ for the use of another person, to not in turn ‘use’ it as a means of power over another person. It means to not give away your personal sexual energy over to just anyone. Exchange of prana can be a beautiful thing between two people who love each other, but if you remember that you are constantly receiving prana of a positive/negative nature in all that you see/do/eat/breathe, equally, an unbalanced exchange of sexual prana can upset your own prana. #justsayin !
5. APARIGRAHA (Non-coveting)
This doesn’t necessarily mean in the Biblical sense, of coveting your neighbours wife/husband, but means having a practice of non-attachment. It means not holding onto things that really don’t serve us. For instance, ideas or concepts we may have about ourselves (our ego), our personalities, and of course material possessions or plans. When you let go of attachment to these things, you are able to become more in tune with the energy or prana all around us, and trust that the Universe will indeed provide us with everything we need in life. It allows us to become more free to to flow with the natural flow of life.
Hmmm. Maybe I’ll stop there for this week... Now I'm re-visiting the Yamas, there’s actually quite a lot to think about here! I’ll blog next week about the Niyamas :)
Maybe try using these guidelines for the next few weeks and trying to implement them into your lifestyle…and let us know how you get on! You could tag us on Instagram @yogapadhenley #yamas with your interpretations!
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