If you believe that yoga is defined by one aspect of hatha yoga, which is asana, then you may wonder; what do beliefs such as yamas and niyamas have to do with yoga. The answer is quite a lot. In fact asana divorced from awareness of our true motive and intent can in no way qualify as yoga. Therefore if you practice asana without transforming your believes about yourself in relation to all of life; then asana is merely another egoic glamour inducing form of gymnastic style exercise. If on the other hand you wish to reflect upon the true nature of yoga and apply it to your asana practice understanding motive, intent and awareness is essential in order to actually practice yoga.
The Yamas & Niyamas of Patañjali’s Yoga Sutra’s
Yamas & Niyamas are about our behavior. They are pointed out in the Kriya Yoga section of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, which is Chapter 2. As we all know our behavior is a reflection of our thoughts and feelings; which reflect our beliefs. Yamas and Niyamas therefore are guidelines suggesting how we can most effectively structure our beliefs; which influence feelings and guide our thoughts; which in turn may transform our intent and behavior. Our beliefs are not necessarily what we say we believe, rather our beliefs are what we actually belief. So our true beliefs are those which actually control & direct our behavior. That is our true religion, what we actually believe, not what we proclaim to believe.
In Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras ~ Yamas are the first limb of the eight limbs of Rāja yoga.
In Sadhana Pada Verse 30.
- Ahimsa non-violence is grounded in thought & feeling. Letting go of all enmity
- Satya truth awareness in thought word and deed.
- Asteya non-stealing, taking without free exchange
- Brahmacharya is the elevation of awareness & transmutation of sexual energy
- Aparigraha absence of greed, wanting more.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras ~ Niyamas are the second limb of the eight limbs of Raja Yoga.
In Sadhana Pada Verse 32.
- Shaucha: purity of thought, mind and body.
- Santosha: well being; contentment.
- Tapas: energetic spiritual dedication.
- Svādhyāya: self study, inner reflection awakening soul and to the God within.
- Ishvarapranidhana: surrender to Oneness, God.
The yamas & niyamas of patanjali’s Yoga Sutras establish guidelines for measuring our state of mind; to determine whether or not our mental conditions are conducive to promoting a spiritually awakened state of consciousness. While yamah is stillness niyama is active, radiant. Every choice we make is an action, whether we act to be still or moving. Every thing is the result of cause & effect. We have the opportunity to choose every moment. Yama is like planting, niyana blossoming. Meditation is like yama, niyama is like rising; both determine the quality of every cause & effect.. Together both are kriya practices. Preparing & Harvesting; thinking feeling & acting There is not one without the other. Every single coin has two sides.
Often yamas are interpreted as “restraints” which for me implies a state of conflict. Naturally we may experience mental emotional struggles at times, throughout our lives, but I for one don’t favor the idea, that struggling is a highly recommended path to spiritual awakening. Determination require energy and focus, but it’s best when focused wisely in the most effective way, which would be rather free of opposition and restraint.
Say you have a motor vehicle. It can best accomplish its task when it is well tuned and efficient, for it still will face external obstacles of load & grade. Challenges are a natural part of any task, we can only assure we are well prepared to face what is beyond our control.
Struggle suggests a solution is required and that is where our attention should be focused. And that requires us to remove inner conflicts. So attunement is a better view than restraint. I believe yama actually suggests a state of quietude; stillness and an end of conflict, like the pause between each breath. Breath should not be seen as a struggle between inhalation and exhalation. Stilling is quite different from restraint.
A Rosemont Way is meant to suggest that as you climb the mount of this life’s journey; to a higher view. Being attentive along the way, you may find a rose, which in deed blossoms just for you. You are then witness there in an eternal timeless moment and are as though the eyes of God; in that perfect moment of yoga union. And if you awaken then to that eternal timeless moment you are the one yogi/yogini.