In January I declared to all of you that one of my New Year’s resolutions was to dive deeper into the teachings and practices of Patañjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga by writing an individual blog post on each of the 8 Limbs. I’m drawn to the 8 Limbs of Yoga because they provide us with everyday practices that help us live more soulful and meaningful lives, through physical postures, breathing exercises, meditation and philosophical practices.
I also value these teachings because they are not black and white rules we must follow, rather they are guidelines to help us live more fulfilling lives. This type of opportunity to explore a more beneficial way of life inspires me to partake on this journey. I hope it inspires you too!
The 1st Limb, Yamas
I spent the first half of this year exploring the 1st limb of the 8 Limbs of Yoga, the yamas. To refresh your memory on the Yamas Series, or if you are a new subscriber to my blog, here’s a quick recap of the yamas:
The yamas are a set of ethical principles that serve as a guideline on how we treat others and our planet. These principles emphasize our connection to other beings as an integral part of yoga because everything is interconnected. Patañjali makes it clear that what we think, feel and do has a direct impact on our world. We are therefore encouraged to be mindful of our actions, because every action we take has an effect. The yamas breakdown into 5 ethical practices for us to consider:
Ahimsā – non-harming
Satya – honesty
Asteya – not stealing
Bramacharya – the wise use of creative energy
Aparigraphā – non-possessiveness
The 2nd Limb, Niyamas
For the remainder of the year, I will continue our journey through the 8 Limbs of Yoga with the 2nd limb, the niyamas. The niyamas are personal practices that teach us to respect ourselves on every level: body, mind and spirit. These ancient teachings are still very relevant today and provide great self-care guidance that is so needed in our world. I whole-heartedly believe that when we are healthy and happy (or content) we can give so much more to the rest of the world. And being in this healthy state requires continuous practice. The niyamas breakdown into five habits that help us to maintain this state:
Saucha – purity, cleanliness
Santosha – contentment
Tapas – discipline and fire in the belly
Svādhyāya – self-reflection and study
Īshvara Pranidhāna – devotion or surrender
Over the next few months I will write a blog post on each individual niyama. I will dive deeper into its meaning and provide examples of how you can practice it in your daily life. However, with this series I will also encourage you to develop your own list of practices that are unique to your life situation. For example, when we explore the first niyama, saucha or purification/cleanliness, I may suggest cleaning areas within your home that are messy and cluttered. Cleaning and purifying these areas will release stagnant energy in your home and allow positive energy to flow more freely. (Believe it or not, you can physically feel the difference in your mind and body!) But you may feel your home is already clean and realize that it’s more beneficial for you to perform this practice in your office instead. Then do that!
Or I may ask you to list 5 ways you could implement a specific niyama practice. I will give you an example of 5 ways I may practice it, but I want you to come up with your own ideas that are more applicable to your life situation.
Then I will ask you to journal about your experiences. This is an opportunity to reflect on how the practice made you feel, if you noticed any shifts in your mindset or in other people’s attitudes, and so on.
For me, practicing the niyamas is like getting back to basics---a sort of reset. They are self-scare practices that make me feel grounded, content, and help spark creativity and joy. I’m really excited about this next limb and I hope you are too!
So, go grab your journal and get ready for my next blog on saucha!