Saturday, October 29, 2011

Yama & Niyama

Cathryn Booth-Jones

How often have we heard it suggested that we work with some posture at home and inwardly thought ‘where will I find the time’? In a busy lifestyle it can be difficult to make time for these things with so many other things clamouring for our attention.

We can however, incorporate yoga into our everyday life in another way - by working with the first two limbs of the eight-fold path of yoga, Yama & Niyama.

The eight limbs as written in Pantanjali’s yoga sutras are as follows :

1. Yama – abstinence

2. Niyama – observance

3. Asana – postures

4. Pranayama – breath control

5. Pratyahara – sense withdrawal

6. Dharana – concentration

7. Dhyana – meditation

8. Samadhi – contemplation.

These first two limbs are the prerequisite to hatha yoga. In a Miyoga class, we practice all three simultaneously. They form the ethical path of yoga and can be practised anywhere, anytime, without interfering in our daily activities but rather enhancing them.

Yamas are described as abstinences or healthy behaviours. They deal with our interaction with our environment, our relationships with others and society as a whole.

There are 5 Yama (abstentions) and they are:

Ahimsa – Non- violence/Kindness

Satya – Truth/Honesty

Asteya – Non-stealing/Responsibility

Brahmacarya – Moderation of Sexuality/Unity

Aparigraha – Non-greed/Simplicity

Niyamas are healthy practices, personal observances, that create an environment that is healthy and supports our growth. They allow us to experience deeper states of meditation because of their effect on our nervous system and our influence on our environment becomes more positive.

There are also 5 Niyama (observances) and they are:

Shaoca – Purity /Clarity

Santosa – Contentment/Acceptance

Tapah – Austerity/Sacrifice

Svadhyaya – Self Study/Understanding

Ishvara Pranidhara – Surrender/Spirituality

The Yamas & Niyamas are you could say a recipe for living well. All of us are born with these inherent qualities and over time and through experience we are pulled away from them. This means that we do not need to acquire or manufacture them, just simply rediscover them in ourselves. We do this through observing our whole life; thoughts, feelings, speech, action in light of each of the Yamas and Niyamas. By becoming more aware of them, we become aware of all that keeps us from experiencing wholeness. Awareness brings healing with it, as we discover our ability to make choices.

‘Yamas & Niyamas deal with the fundamental things which tend to cloud the mirror of personality which reflects the Self.’ - K & V Kingsland (Complete Hatha Yoga)

I encourage you to join me on this journey of discovery as in future issues we explore each Yama and Niyama in turn. You will be able to ponder the relevance of each to you personally and to our society and I will include things you can do to bring them into your day to day life and so be practising yoga wherever you go!

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