The Yamas and Niyamas - the Intro!
Our New Year has begun! The New Year can offer us a fresh start to begin anew in our lives, as well as the opportunity begin an exploration or quest. Here, on this blog through the remainder of 2016, I intend to begin an exploration of the ‘Yamas’ and ‘Niyamas’ of yoga—essentially, the ethical principles that can guide our yoga practice and the intersection of where yoga meets life, both on and off the mat. So today's post offers both an introduction and launches us onto our first stop for the year - January's part of the quest!
In functional movement therapy there are some basic questions to answer: ‘What should be nurtured?’ ‘What should be quieted?’ The beauty of these questions is that they can be applied to all things in life– not just movement. So I invite you to take them up along with me as we begin this exploration together.
Deborah Adele has authored The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice, a terrific resource we will be consulting along this journey. She describes the yamas and niyamas as being “foundational to all yogic thought”, as well as the guidelines for living set forth by the ancient yoga teachings of Pantanjali in his Yoga Sutras.
So what are they? The Yamas in Sanskit translate to “restraints” and the Niyamas translate to “observances”. Pantanjali gives them to us as:
Ahimsa – nonviolence
Satya – truthfulness
Asteya – non-stealing
Brahmacharya – non-excess
Aparigraha – non-possessiveness
Saucha – purity
Santosha – contentment
Tapas – self-disciple
Svadhyaya – self-study
Ishvara Pranidhana – surrender
January – we begin our exploration of yoga’s ethical principles with ahmisa- nonviolence – the 1st of the Yamas!
What does following ahimsa mean for our yoga practice? For our daily life?
Perhaps when we think of non-violence, we initially may reflect on aspects of non-violence directed towards others. And yet it is worth starting with the wise words of the well-known song –Let There be Peace on Earth . . . .and let it begin with me.
And as such, taking a look: how can I practice non-violence towards myself this year? Both on and off the mat. Both in my yoga practice and in my life. What would that look like for me?
What could be nurtured and what could be quieted?
What little injuries do I do to myself in my practice and my life? Physically? Emotionally? Am I compassionate towards myself? Do I nurture myself and practice self-love? Or am I keen to make judgment against myself? Do I constantly compare myself to others or do I honor my own path?
Adele encourages us to find our courage as we examine ahimsa—and specifically, look at how fear is a driver towards violence in our lives. She also encourages us to create balance, because in creating more balance we create more space--for reflection, journaling, closure, imagination, and feeling the “calling of the life force within us.” She explains how balance comes from listening to our inner guidance and wisdom.
It is the skill of listening that we can develop through our yoga practice. Listening to the internal messages our body sends us. Creating space to hear our inner wisdom by watching our thoughts and actions.
Judith Hanson Lasater, in a holiday open line audio broadcast through YogaU, recently described examining the color, quality, shape, taste and texture of how we treat ourselves and others. So, I wonder, how can we examine practicing ahimsa by viewing it as having a color, quality, shape, taste and texture? What would it look, feel, sound, smell, and taste like?
As you move through your practice this January, explore these questions with ahmisa in mind. How can you practice more kindness towards yourself and greater self-care? Notice how this reverberates into your world. This is a quest we can take together.
With light and love,
P.S. - I would love to hear your comments and insights throughout this journey. Hope to hear from you.
Blog Archives including Heart Tree Yoga's Yamas and Niyamas Study from January-December 2016 and seasonal newsletters.