In this edition, I will briefly introduce the first two limbs, Yama and Niyama. They describe how we should present and what we should practice when living in complete union: connected to our true selves and all sentient beings.
AHIMSA - non-harming of animals, others, and yourself. Extending compassion to all living beings. Your actions, words, and behaviour shouldn't lead to any form of harm.
SATYA: truthfulness. This doesn't only refer to not lying, but being honest. Honest communication and action builds a solid ground for a healthy relationship. On the other hand, deliberate deception, exaggerations and lies lead to harm. Satya builds upon Ahimsa. Imagination, assumption, erroneous conclusions and exaggerations should be removed from your daily communications, and you should be your authentic, real, honest self.
"When non-stealing(Asteya) is established, all jewels or treasures present themselves, or are available to the yogi" - Yoga Sutra.
The feeling of inadequacy, jealousy or deprivation can lead to expressions that don't adhere to Ateya. Stealing doesn't just refer to physical stealing but can be things such as taking somebody else's limelight and recognition or taking credit for work done by others. It can also refer to deliberate wastage of time, things, food, money, etc. Comparisons made by distinguishing things as "mine" and "yours" are also not helpful for practising Asteya, as sharing is an essence of Asteya.
BRAHMACHARYA: moderation and abstinence. This refers to utilising your energy in the right way and behaving in ways that take us closer to the divine energy or higher power. Instead of short-lived pleasures from fulfilling external desires, focus on finding peace and happiness within yourself.
APARIGRAHA: non-attachment, non-greed. To practice aparigraha, let go of what is not needed and what is not serving you. Letting go of possessions that clutter your mind and space, letting go of pent-up emotions, freeing yourself from bitterness and pain by forgiving, letting go of that breath that you might be holding in because of stress! Sharing your time, knowledge, and skills to help others and donating is also a way of letting go by not keeping it all to yourself. All of these are ways you can practice aparigraha.
SAUCHA: cleanliness or purity. This not only refers to the literal cleanliness of oneself and your surroundings but also to recognising any habits that don't serve you anymore or unlearning "bad" habits you have built up over time. It also refers to getting rid of negativity from your mind.
SANTOSHA: refers to contentment. Practice gratitude and appreciate and accept what we have right now and what we are right now. Meditation, non-judgement, and spending time in nature can propagate Santosha.
TAPAS: self-discipline or "burning enthusiasm". This is our inner wisdom, the fiery passion that feeds our spirit and sense of purpose. Often, we give up our passion and prioritise other things that are easier, socially aligned or take less time. Practising self-dripline helps us tap into our inner strength and vitality and develop perseverance to empower us.
SWADHYAYA: self-study and self-reflection. Practising Swadhyaya allows you to become more aware of things you do that bring harm to yourself, something that serves you well. It is a path to self-discovery and takes you closer to your true self. Observing your actions and reactions, feelings, and thoughts are the starting point for practising Swadhyaya.
ISHWARA PRANIDHANA means surrendering to God, any higher powers, or the higher self. Whatever your belief in a higher being may be, Ishwara Pranidhana is practised by letting go of your expectations and surrendering your ego completely. By continually offering our efforts and rewards to something more than just personal gain and putting aside our judgment and criticism, we can keep Ishwara or our higher self in the forefront of our eyes.
Yoga is a way of life. Without practising and living the 8 limbs of yoga, you are practising Asana and Pranayama. I am not saying that the practice of asana and pranayama is insignificant. Only when you start to venture into the other limbs do you understand the meaning of yoga. I hope the first two limbs of yoga have sparked some interest to self-reflect and contemplate what it means to you.