How to upgrade your personal yoga practice? The answer to this question was given by the sage Patanjali in the 2nd century BCE in his treatise “Yoga Sutras of Patanjali”. He picked out eight main limbs that a person should go through to achieve the state of yoga — the restraint of fluctuations of consciousness. All these limbs intersect and complement each other.
The first two limbs — Yama and Niyama — make the basis of yoga. They include the main principles of our interactions with the inner and outer Universe. We should follow them to hit the aim of spiritual perfection. When we practice yoga, we should implement in our lives the statements of Yama and Niyama to remove obstacles from the way and to make the practice more effective. Let us consider how Yama and Niyama work in practice.
The first limb — Yama — includes five recommendations about interactions with the outer Universe.
1. Ahimsa nonviolence, non-harming other living beings. We should do our best to cause no harm to any living being unless it is absolutely necessary. If it is impossible, we should follow our duty. With regard to yoga practice, this principle encourages us to be kind not only to all living beings but also to our own bodies. We should learn to understand them, to switch our attention to the inner feelings and bear no discomfort. We should not push ourselves into any pose if our body is against it. If we ignore inner discomfort regularly and try to bend ourselves by force, we can cause harm to our body and overheat our inner structures.
2. Satya — truthfulness, sincerity. We should be honest with ourselves. When it is difficult to perform a pose, we should not force ourselves. Yoga is a rather long process, which is formed from regular exercises. We should admit honestly that, if it is impossible to practice at such a pace for years, we should reduce the exercise and make it acceptable.
3. Asteya — non-stealing, honesty. We should not copy other practitioner’s positions or poses from stereotype pictures thoughtlessly. We need to rediscover each pose for ourselves and not try to put on some borrowed image.
4. Brahmacharya — efficiency. We should not waste our energy and direct our consciousness to the things that do not lead us to our personal goals. During yoga practice, we should create favorable conditions and concentrate on the practice, try not to distract from it. When doing physical exercises, we need to find the fine line between effort and ease, and determine when we need to push ourselves and when we should allow our bodies to have rest and relax. This is the most effective method as it allows us to earn the trust of our body, which reveals its secrets and leads to self-development.
5. Aparigraha — non-possessiveness, non-attachment. We should not get attached to the results of our yoga practice or cling to them, we ought to have inner freedom. We should be ready to start yoga practice from the very beginning from life to life and every day. In such a case, all that we need to get from the practice will come to us without any effort at the appropriate time.
The second limb — Niyama — includes five recommendations on the interactions with the inner world.
1. Shaucha — purity. To have a successful practice we should keep our body clean and eat healthy. There are cleansing practices and nutrition recommendations, which give you advice, what is best for your body. We should keep clean not only our body but also our thoughts and intentions. That can help to come nearer to the restraint of fluctuations of consciousness. When our mind becomes clearer, we realize where our thoughts come from and it becomes easier to stop them.
2. Santosha — contentment, satisfaction. The principle of Santosha encourages us to achieve our goals consistently and not to suffer from the things we cannot get and be content with the things we have at the moment. The Universe is infinitely kind to us. According to yoga theory, we have the best of what we deserve now.
3. Tapas — austerity, perseverance, persistence. We should keep the inner fire, the aspiration or the intention to achieve the desired goal alive. Exerting our will, we set the direction to achieve the desired goals for our actions and do not allow ourselves to get sidetracked.
4. Svadhyaya — self-study. To achieve the highest goal, yogis need to study constantly, make their mind sharper and act logically. We can get rid of ignorance and understand the essence of the inner processes only by gaining higher knowledge.
5. Ishvarapranidhana — contemplation of the personal image of the Absolute, devoting all thoughts to the Universe. We need to understand that, our practice of yoga, the way we are doing it now is already perfect. During our personal practice, we should first make our best and then let it go, to give the Universe the opportunity to make its part of the work.
Do yoga effectively and kindly, be honest with yourself, keep your body and thoughts clean, feel good about yourself, sustain your inner inspiration, sharpen your mind, make everything that depends on you, trust in the Universe and be happy!
Author: Eva Rati
Editors: Kerigona, М.Sarasvati-Bhavani
Translators: Tatiana Atishaya, Tatiana Sugrue, Nat Satchitananda
Project curator: Kerigona