Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Yama and Niyama and why you need them.

There is so much emphasis in today’s Yogic world on the physical body, but what we do on the mat is such a tiny proportion of what yoga is.  If you think that you have been to your yoga class today so you have done your yoga then think again, this is not the way.  Yoga is a state of mind, a way of being, a science of the heart that explores and defines all aspects of life.  In the traditional yogic world there is little attention given to the postures and full attention in ones inner nature.  Today it seems as technology is taking over the world human beings are moving further and further away from the inner nature and a totally caught up in the body and machines.  We want to start with the body for sure, to be able to keep it healthy and to control it but then move on away from the physical aspect and dive into the inner being.  Yoga should allow you to reach your higher nature, not become obsessed with the body but know how to use it beneficially, everything should be focusing on reaching that higher state, every breath in your day should be yoga and this is where the practice of the Yamas and Niyamas are essential, without them ‘Yoga’ is not possible. 
Yama outline the actions from which we should restrain, the things we should not do in our daily lives and the Niyama details the actions, which we should do.  Together they form a highly moral code of ethical conduct that keeps the mind quiet and more positive, they enable purification of the mind that prepares us for deep meditation.  Without following this ethical code all our mistakes come back to us whilst meditating and disturb the mind greatly creating huge boundaries and barriers for us to overcome before we can reach our inner peace.  Without the practice of Yama and Niyama inner peace is not achievable. 
Ahimsa – non-violence or non-injury to all living entities including humans, birds, insects, fish and ourselves.  In thoughts and deeds.  This means maintaining a fully pure vegetarian diet.  We must show compassion and respect to all things blessed with life.  Every living thing at the end of the day is trying to find happiness, even those mosquitoes!
Satya – truthfulness, not lying not only to all living beings but also to ourselves.  This is also in thought as in deed, sometimes words are not needed to make a lie, and sometimes saying nothing or making a gesture can also lead to incorrect impressions and misleadings.  Don’t be manipulative.
Brahmacharya – non-sexual misconduct, not harming anyone through sex, any action of a sexual nature that causes suffering to another.  Rape, adultery, sex with another’s partner, sex with children or family members are obvious forms of sexual misconduct.  Or sexual acts that result in expressions of anger, disputes and even violence.  Brahmacharya also means chastity or sublimation of the sexual energy, refraining from sexual activity.
Asteya – non stealing, this could be taking others possessions by force, by deception, secretly or by borrowing and not returning.  We can take this also to the level of ideas not just in objects.  This means not exploiting or cheating any living thing.
Aparigraha – non-greediness, not living with too much, living simply is best and having a lack of jealousy of what others have.  Many of us live with so many unnecessary things, time to think of the cause they have on mother earth and give them up, be simple and happy.
Saucha – purity or cleanliness, this is keeping both internal and external cleanliness.  Our yogic postures, breathing and kriyas can provide internal cleansing for the body, but we also have to think about our minds, which we can ‘clean’ during meditation.  This also refers to our environment. 
Santosha – Being content.  The yogic way is to be able to maintain a happy and contented mind whatever your situation.  If you end up staying in some grotty place be content with it, the next time if you end up staying at a five star hotel don’t be over excited but maintain being content.  Everything is always coming and going, always changing, yoga can mean keeping a contented mind in any situation.
Tapas – performing austerities, meaning don’t be lazy get out of bed in the morning, don’t be greedy, don’t eat too much, and don’t indulge yourself.  Extreme austerities for us normal householder yogis are not recommended unless under expert guidance, just be very mindful of all that we do.
Eshwarapranidhana – self surrendering, having an awareness of a higher nature, a higher being and living with that awareness, whatever faith or non faith you are coming from, but the yogic way sees a higher spirit and lives with that awareness.  Surrendering your ego to a higher spirit.
Swadhyaya – self analyzing, being the witness to yourself and learning to build on your wisdom eradicating ignorance.  This includes study of the scriptures and Vedanta philosophy.

So breathe life into your yoga practice through your whole day and night, even in your sleep!  Allow yourself to rise to a different level, there may be many challenges on the way but this is your strength, overcoming our weakness, our mistakes and our ignorance is what makes us strong.  So dive, be bold dive deep and find the complete peace of which is within you and is your birthright.
Om Lokha Somasta Sukhino Bhavantu
May you all find balance, harmony and peace.
Om Shantih
Mangala / Nicky

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