Yoga Imitates Life
Or is it the other way around?!?!?
The Yoga Sutras, a compilation of Patanjali’s teachings written by his disciples reflect on the systematic approach to a higher state of consciousness, or what the yogis would call samadhi, the 8th limb.
but first we must look at the meat of the Yoga Sutras; the 8 limbs. We must become aware and practice the internal and external disciplines of Raja Yoga to see how there is really no difference between yoga and life itself. They become reflections of one another. When we fully understand these teachings, we recognize that in each moment on the mat or off the mat we have a choice in the way we want to be.
As I understand these steps more fully, when i step onto my mat, each time becomes a philosophy teaching and a life lesson, rather then simply poses strung together to build strength and flexibility. There is a switch, a light bulb that turns on after a while where your practice becomes your healing rather then your exercise.
Yoga doesnt tell us what to do or how to be, but simply gives us guidelines on how we may want to live our lives so that we are in more harmony with our relationship to our Selves and our relationship with others.
My intention is to bring this ancient text alive in a simple way so that we can relate to these teachings today.
Ashtanga Yoga = this is what it really means. its a philosophical 8 limb practice, not just gymnastics yoga.
1. Yama – guidelines or morals
Ahimsa – non violence
sometimes we dont know that we are hurting others or even ourselves, we go about our days behaving violently unconsciously. Some examples include, killing bugs, putting chemicals in and on the body, eating and using animal products, and even the way we think can be harmful to ourselves and others.
Satya – truthfulness
what is true? truth is subjective. Do you ever notice what is true for you may not be true for everyone. Why do we feel the need to speak our truth all the time? Is truth really opinion? live in your truth, but you dont necessarily have to fight about it or share it all the time. Hold it sacred. Be open to hearing other truths. dont discount other peoples truths because they look different.
Asteya – non stealing
Stealing can come in many forms. Besides stealing things, I began to notice other things that were being stolen like time and energy. When i started teaching this became really clear as people would show up late to class and i would feel angry and disrespected. Now, someone who was always late and rushing which caused added stress and anxiety am never late to anything based on these teachings.
Brahmacharya – moderation
in the ancient teachings, this term was used for sexual abstinence so temptation would not distract the mind and purpose of self realizaition and now has become translated to moderation. We hear this time and time again in our lives. How can we balance. Instead of being serial daters, how can we have the patience to wait and cultivate the buddhist practice of right relationship. Moderation can be applied to everything. The way we do anything is the way we do everything. If you are an extremist, you know what im talking about.
Aparigraha – greedlessness
We live in a world where we want what others have because we are discontent. a teacher once said “the basic problem of mankind is we are always wanting. wanting, wanting, wanting” can we be happy for people and what they have without wanting it also. Especially when it comes to making money, when is it enough? when can we stop trying to make more? to buy the fanciest car? the biggest house? what will that bring you?
2. Niyama – observances
Sauca – purity
When we purify, we cleanse, when we cleanse we become clear. Notice when you have a clean room, how do you feel compared to when its messy. Clean your temple and use it as a vehicle for transformation.
Tapas – discipline
My favorite. It can be hard, but well worth it if you stick to whatever it is you set out to do. Have the discipline and the practice to do it anyway, even if you don’t feel like it. You always feel better in the end, don’t you? I always think of working out, studying, or anything you commit to. Are you too disciplined? does that keep you close minded in other ways? not disciplined enough? prone to laziness? See where you are lacking so that you can make shifts from a higher level of awareness
Santosa – contentment
Why are we always wanting? If its good… stay there. Stop trying to get to the next place or the next best thing because you lose out on the present moment. How come its so much easier to be dissatisfied? Be here now. Give gratitude in this moment, see how that correlates with contentment.
Swadhyaya – self study of mantra and sacred text
Inform yourself. Question what you believe and why you believe it. Always be humble enough to be a student, no matter how much you think you know. Study something and better yet experience it before you share an opinion on it. Do the practices that reveal the inner wisdom and allow it to shine through. Keep asking, Who Am I?
Ishvara Pranidhana – Surrender
Devotion and love. The highest for of Bhakti Yoga. Give it all up, to get it all back. Self-surrender is not a process of defeat or of mindlessly submitting to another’s will. It is the act of giving ourselves to a higher purpose. Are you attached to outcomes of an event or expectations, or can you surrender fully and be more in the flow.
3. Asana – to sit
steady comfortable posture. How can we embrace the discomfort, the things in life that come up, that we would rather avoid or suppress. How can we find the comfort and strength to sit through the times and experiences that are tough with grace and compassion. Today asana has expanded to lots of postures, but originally was used to take a seat and prepare the body for meditation.
4. Pranayama – regulation of breath
Patanjali says “when the breath stops, the mind stops” we learn to control the breath so that we can induce a more calming state, and switch on the rest and digest nervous system. The breath becomes longer and deeper with pauses at the top and the bottom of each breath so that we can calm the mind and slow down. Create pauses in your life instead of running around with a million things to do. In latin american countries they say “siempre hay manana” – there is always tomorrow. The pause reflects stillness.
5. Pratyahara – sense withdrawal
“To withdrawal the senses, you must first withdrawal the mind” As the mind stills, so do the sensations. Sometimes we experience and feel so much because of our senses. When you take away one sense, dont the others become much stronger? maybe they are just a distraction from getting to know the Self. what happens when you take away all of them?
6. Dharana – concentration
Drishti in yoga means to hold. Have focal points in your life. Narrow in on what you want to be focusing on. Wouldn’t it be better and more efficient in life if we could put 100% into one thing rather then 60% into multiple projects. Hold a job, hold a gaze, hold a conversation, hold your stocks, ride the wave and with more intention and focus, you will undoubtedly do everything better.
7. Dhyana – meditation
when you concentrate on a single object for long enough, the object then disappears and you fall into a state of nothingness. Some people refer to it as “in the zone” or no mind. When you are free from the mundane and you can be more fully present in NOW.
8. Samadhi – enlightenment
When all of these limbs are not perfected but practiced over time, there becomes a shift in identity. This is a state of non doing. Where a higher state of consciousness is revealed. It may be a glimpse or happen for longer periods of time.
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