You may have only thought of yoga as a physical exercise regime. That’s understandable as this is the side of yoga that’s most well known in the West. Many people go through the motions but never delve deeper into the philosophy behind the practice. Yoga really is about far, far more than merely physical movement. It’s a framework that can guide every aspect of your life and has the power to transform your levels of happiness and personal fulfilment.
As mentioned in our last blog post, one of the oldest systems of yoga is ‘Raja’ or the royal path. This is divided into eight ‘limbs’ and in this blog explore the first limb – Yamas. Yamas are your attitudes towards others.
So many of the negative things in life come from people’s lack of self-control and pent up anger. Whether it’s road rage, violence, nasty gossip, envying others or lying about your actions, these negative behaviours can become embedded in the way we live, bringing unhappiness to others and poisoning our own lives.
The yamas or ‘restraints’ help you to recognise and take responsibility for your actions and guide you towards a more peaceful relationship with the world around you.
This is all about compassion – for yourself and for others. The belief is that we’re all connected so if you hurt someone or something, you are hurting yourself. Likewise, if you’re not kind to yourself, you’ll find it hard to be kind to others.
Being truthful in the way you think and the things you say can be difficult. You might think that you could hurt others by being truthful. But the negative repercussions from not being truthful are often worse and make matters more difficult in your life.
This doesn’t only refer to stealing money or possessions. It’s more concerned with stealing people’s time by trying to persuade them to do something they don’t want to do or seeking attention when the other person doesn’t want to give it. Asteya encourages you to be grateful that you have everything you could possible want. This will mean you’re less inclined to take what isn’t naturally yours.
This yama is all about re-directing your energy from negative to positive things. Think about where you tend to direct your energy. Is it towards worrying or trying to present yourself as someone you’re not to impress others? Brahmacharya encourages the right use of your energy – if there’s something you love doing that gives you a boost, then do it! Book that yoga class!
This isn’t just about material things – it also looks at the ideas and concepts you might hold in your head about your life. Aparigrapha helps you to realise that if you let go of these pre-conceived ideas, you’ll be free to go with the flow of life and change and develop within it.