What Is Yoga?
Off The Mat
The Royal Path: The Eight Limbs of
Ahimsa – non-harming, non-violence.
Violence in speech or action is preceded by violent thoughts and even
thoughts have repercussions on the mind. Cultivation of ahimsa leads to
spontaneous, all encompassing love. Cultivating ahimsa lets us see unity
Satya – is truthfulness and is a
component of all moral codes. Satya is truthfulness to ourselves
and others in thought, word and deed. One lie leads to more. Deception
becomes second nature and leads to a fearful, scheming mind.
Asteya – is non-stealing, refraining from
theft. Desiring what others have is based on jealousy and inadequacy, a
sense of being cheated, and/or a desire for retribution. We can be
haunted by the thought that someone else has what we feel we need to be
complete and fulfilled. Stealing won’t make us feel adequate.
Cultivating asteya develops a sense of completeness and self
sufficiency and leads to freedom from the bondage of such cravings
Brahmacharya – appropriate use of the senses (sometimes
includes celibacy). To walk in Brahman is only possible if the mind
is free from sensual desires and sex is the most powerful of these.
Continence is not repression or even abstinence necessarily.
Aparigraha – non-grabbing, non-attachment,
non-possessiveness. It isn’t denying oneself material possessions. It is
a mental attitude of non-attachment, of not being addicted to or dependent
on one’s possessions. Danger lies in attachment or in craving more, not
in the objects themselves.
Shaucha is purity, of mind and body. Body
purity is easiest. For mental purity, cultivate mindfulness and
discrimination. Be aware of thoughts and ask -will this lead me to
greater freedom or greater bondage and ignorance? Sincerity and
perseverance are essential for this niyama.
Santosha – contentment. It
is a state of mind not dependent on material status and leads to effort
based on duty and service not discontent and/or anticipation of rewards.
Tapas – ‘turning up the heat’. It
involves practices that lead to
perfection of body, mind and senses. It is balanced, not excessive
austerities. It involves pushing our edge, working at the limit of our
capacity which generates heat. Tapas develops strength of body and mind
and the blaze of spiritual fervor.
Swadhyaya is study that leads to knowledge of
the Self. It begins with understanding the scriptures intellectually.
The rational acceptance of spiritual truths leads to intuitive insights
and true understanding of these truths. Then knowledge of the Self dawns.
Ishwara Pranidhana – is surrender to ultimate
reality. You need infinite faith and dedication. Total surrender comes
with time, sincerity and perseverance. The ego resists tenaciously but
when ego is transcended, knowledge of Self is attained.
3. Asana –
physical postures of yoga.
Meditative – for sitting for meditation and pranayama
and cultural – for preparing the body for meditation and for improved
health and flexibility.
– working with breath and energy. It is control of prana, our vital energy
that sustains body and mind. It’s grossest manifestation is the breath.
Regulation of breath leads to regulation of mind. If the mind is
disturbed, the breath will be also. Pranayama purifies and
strengthens the nervous system.
5. Pratyahara is withdrawal and control of the senses.
Our mind contacts the world through the senses. We can voluntarily
withdraw our mind from our senses and isolate ourselves from
distractions. This control is a mental process, not physical. It starts
6. Dharana – concentration.
The dissipated powers of mind are gathered together and directed towards
an object of concentration through continued voluntary attention (an act
of will). The mind thus becomes more powerful and penetrative.
– meditation. A concentrated mind in meditation is a product of
prolonged concentration practice (dharana).
Concentration makes the mind one pointed. Meditation expands the one
pointed mind to a superconscious state by piercing through the conscious
and subconscious. The uninterrupted flow of our mind towards one object
leads to the dawning of intuitive knowledge. Meditation alone can take
one to this blissful state of mind beyond the conscious and unconscious.
8. Samadhi – enlightenment comes after prolonged and intense
meditation. You become one with Divine Self and transcend all
imperfections and limitations. It is beyond the three states of waking,
sleeping and dreaming in a fourth state called turiya, sleepless
sleep. Your entire life becomes an expression of the unhindered flow of
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