A lot of people hear the word “yoga” and they think about lots of stretching into gumby poses (aka doing asanas).
While stretching the body is a big part of a yoga practice, so is stretching who you are as a person.
In fact, according to Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutras, stretching your soul, is job number one!
Every day you must contemplate the 5 Yamas and the 5 Niyamas.
When I learned about them recently in my ISHTA Yoga Teacher Training, I thought about how in a way they were sort of like Pantajali’s 10-pack version of the famous “4 Agreements.”Chances are you’ve heard of the famous (and awesome) book “The 4 Agreements” by Don Miguel Ángel Ruiz.
I personally have a doggie earred copy of this book – which I re-read all the time.
Well, the Yoga Sutras offer up a total of 10 inspiring Yamas and Niyamas – which together represent the 5 do’s and 5 donnot’s for living your happiest, highest potential life.
When I read about these soul-stretching “10 Agreements,” I loved them so much, I wanted to share!
The Yamas represent 5 things that you should try NOT to do.
When you avoid these 5 actions below, you help to deprogram how you’ve become programmed.
1. ahimsa: non-injury. When you don’t injure (others or yourself), you reach peace of mind.
2. satya: non-lying. When you don’t lie (to others or yourself) you don’t confuse your mind, so you attain a clearer mind.
3. asteya: non-stealing. When you don’t steal, you lessen your need and addiction for things.
4. brahmacharya: non-excess. When you don’t waste your “vital energy” on an excess of things, thoughts, and habits which are not helpful to your well being, you can focus your energy on what matters most – and move your energy to where it needs to go most.
5. aparigraha: non-hoarding. When you stop feeling lack, living with an abundance mentality comes more easily. (NOTE: Read the “corn story” in the poster to the right for more about “abundance mentality.”) Also, whenever you have possessions, this means you’re responsible for taking care of them. As a results, the more stuff you have, the less free you are. When you don’t hoard, you become freer.
The Niyamas represent 5 things that you should TRY to do. When you practice these 5 actions below, you help to reprogram yourself – so that you can let go of limiting thoughts – all that static-filled vritti – the fluctuations in your mind.
1. saucha: cleanliness. When you’re clean, you’re healthy in body and pure in mind.
2. santosha: contentment. When you feel content with all you have/don’t have, you feel content with your karma and dharma (the circumstances you’re born into and face in your life – your one-of-kind “welcome to this planet puzzle of a gift” you’re meant to learn from and grow with!). When you’re content, you’re better able to focus on what you need to learn from your life experiences and stay open to new possibilities and new insights.
3. tapas: discipline. When you are better able to master your mind – you’re better able to master your body, your energies, your thoughts, your challenges – thereby better able to master your karma, dharma and destiny.
4. svadhyaya: self-study. When you start studying yourself, you’re able to find out what it is you need to do – and what you need to give up – so that you can practice in a way that leads to your evolving into your highest self. ISHTA’s name actually comes from a great Sutra about this – Sutra 2.44 – which says: “Svadhyaya ishta devata sampra yogaha.” Meaning? “Through self-study you will find what you personally need.”
5. ishvara pranidhana: let go and connect with the wisdom of the universe- and all which governs our universe! Sri Swami Satchidananda, a Yoga Sutras translator, says that if you’re able to master this one, you’ll be able to attain “Samadhi” – the state of oneness – aka bliss – which is the final limb of yoga. Ishvara pranidhana is all about looking outside of yourself – surrendering to something bigger than yourself. You know that expression: “Let go and let God”? That’s Ishvara pranidhana ! However, it doesn’t matter what you call it (God, Mother Nature, Universal Energies, Spirit ) – it just matters that you call upon it- and let go of your need to control all that happens – and trust a greater plan is at work.
Those are all 10 of the Yamas and Niyamas. They’re helpful to think about on a regular basis – as an essential part of a well-rounded yoga practice – and to ensure you are living your happiest, highest potential life.
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I’d love to hear your insights on the comment section below! What’s something which comes to your mind and heart when you read about these Yoga Sutras?
Hi I’m Karen Salmansohn, founder of NotSalmon. My mission is to offer you easy-to-understand insights and tools to empower you to bloom into your happiest, highest potential self. I use playful analogies, feisty humor, and stylish graphics to distill big ideas – going as far back as ancient wisdom from Aristotle, Buddhism and Darwin to the latest research studies from Cognitive Therapy, Neuro Linquistic Programming, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Quantum Physics, Nutritional Studies – and then some.
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