Updated: Mar 11, 2019
Can you believe it, it's already February? It feels like just yesterday we were stressed about the holidays, kids home from school for two weeks and the work week shorten. Now let's just breathe, and look at the new year as a way to freshen ourselves. Every day we encounter situations that test our inner self ranging from being impatient, to being too lackadaisical, to feeling lost, or having unexpected circumstance thrown your way. We must remember to embrace the person whose reflection we see in the mirror. Every wrinkle, every new "age" spot, every grey hair, every tiger strip, every body movement. Those things make you, YOU!! You've been through so much (WAY TO GO!!) and there is so much more to go through all while loving yourself.
This is why the Eight Limbs are so important. We already spoke about the Yamas now on to the Niyamas where we are applying the ethical codes to the internal environment of a yogi- mind, body, and spirit. This practice teaches us to bolster a positive environment so that we can grow and help us to achieve the necessary path of self-discipline and inner-strength to continue on the path of yoga- divine consciousness. In basic terms the Yamas are the restrictions while the Niyamas are the observances. They work together to form a moral code of conduct.
Saucha (Shaucha)- cleanliness, purification
Having impurities within one's self and within one's' environment can negatively affect a yogis' state of mind and prevent the mastery of real wisdom and spiritual liberation. This refers to not only the physical body but to the environment that it resides in. An example is to understand your mind. The mind is where the types of thoughts you have can consume you or take dominance over you. Within your mind comes your speech as in what you say; have full responsibility to what you are saying and the effect it has on others. This simple change can have a radical effect on a yogi’s life if practiced with true diligence. To move closer to the second limb try cleaning out some unwanted thoughts or replace self-destructive behaviors with new positive behaviors. With this in mind try to be mindful of your speech and try not to engage in gossip or snarky comments, in any form. The simplest steps could be just to clean out a closet, (Eminem did it and made millions), or to sweep the floor. Being conscience to making your internal and external environments pure.
As humans we crave the idea of being excepted. We want all of the latest and greatest, we want what they have, we want it now, we want it first; we want everything. That is when we will be finally happy, when we get XYZ. It’s easy to let your mind trick you into thinking that to achieve true happiness we need materialistic items. In truth materialistic items only have a short shelf life in making us happy, it’s only until we find something else we want that will finally make us happy, and set that on repeat. Practicing total contentment frees us from that burden and unneeded suffering from always wanting things to be different. Contentment in fact fills us with happiness and thankfulness for all of life’s blessings, and from here we can move further along our path.
Tapas- asceticism (discipline/ burning enthusiasm)
(tap means- to burn)
Depending on where you look, the meaning of Tapas means something different to different people and different researchers. From what I’ve gathered this stage is about fire or heat- burning off mental and physical impurities. With this being said; the inner fire can be used as a way to ignite the internal flame of energy which releases kundalini, (in yoga) latent female energy believed to lie coiled at the base of the spine), and helps light the way to the path of enlightenment. This fire is a way to cleanse and strengthen the inner self to guide the conscious into taking control of unconscious impulses and bad behaviors. As a whole it’s about pushing yourself and igniting the flame from within to transform us to become stronger and a more well rounded yogini.
Svadhyaya- self- study ( Patanjali says "Study thyself, discover the divine".)
Life is constantly testing ourselves with different life lessons, we either learn from them or learn to avoid them. Our flaws allow us to grow while our mistakes allow us to learn. Self study is finding out who we are in the present state and also the connection we have with the divine. By examining our actions we can see our conscious and unconscious thoughts, motives and desires.
Ishvara Pranidhana- devotion (has been translated to surrendering to greater power)
If it’s easier to see as simply letting go of our expectations. This Niyama combines the two basic concepts of yoga- devotion to something greater than the self and the selfless action of yoga itself. “Patanjali tells us that to reach the goal of yoga we must dissolve our egocentric nature and let go of our constant identification with ourselves” As yogians there needs to be an understanding that our practice and the benefits from yoga must be seen as an offering to something greater than ourselves. Understanding this, we can enjoy the peace, agape love, and sacred grace of yoga which connects us to the divine power.
The Niyama and Yama are foundation of the Eight Limbs, without these as the base of the tree, no spiritual progress along the path can be made. Many people, yourself included, may come to yoga for the physical exercise, social interactions or for health; some start for those reasons and later find the spiritual effect yoga has upon them. Establishing these spiritual effects on the mind and our consciousness we must be grounded on ethical behavior. Our practice begins with Yama and Niyama and extends to asana and the other branches.
“Balance is like this. Spreading ourselves thin looks impressive, but in the end, we are the first to lose.”
― Deborah Adele, Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice
“You surrender to a lot of things which are not worthy of you. I wish you would surrender to your radiance...your integrity...and your beautiful human grace.
“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
Welcome to Eight Limbs, EssentialZen Yogas’ blog. Here we will grow together and experience a warm inviting yoga community. Here everyone can be free to be yourself and let Eight Limbs guide you. And remember: Go without expectations. Set an intention. Breath. If you have any questions or comments, ideas or thoughts, things you’d like to see on the blog, things you don’t want to see please send me an email at email@example.com.
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