Yoga is a deep subject , almost bottomless , but if you would like to study about it, you should start from the very beginning. I wrote this post, as a consultation with my students, to explain what exactly are the 8 limbs of Raja Yoga ,the type of yoga we practice on the mat in the form of yoga positions - asanas , well, actually, not only...
In this post you will read about how these 8 limbs of Raja yoga connect to your daily practice of yoga poses on your mat. Today I will start with writing a little about Yamas, the first of 8 limbs.
All 8 limbs of Raja yoga are as follows: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.
Let's start with the very beginning. Yamas are the "don'ts", a yogic moral code. There are 5 different Yamas and they include:
Satya - being truthful, and in the context of your practice on the mat it translates into being true to oneself, non cheating oneself in a way that it may lead to an injury of your body. We all know what we can do at a given moment and satya advises us not to skip many levels, but to take it slowly and steady. Jumping levels in the end is simply leading to an injury and a pause in your practice.
The next Yama is called ahimsa- non violence. It refers to non violence against other people and animals, and also it refers to non violence against yourself. It advises not to blame oneself for the past deeds, we did best we could , we always do, but rather treating oneself with compassion, as we treat our best friend. In practice on the mat it means the same thing as being gentle with oneself and ones body.
The next Yama is called astheya - non stealing , which means suspension of any desire to posses what others do, or even preventing any emotions of jealousy. In the context of a yoga classroom , practising on your mat, it means not looking around, checking what others do, but simply focusing on your practice and how you are doing at the moment.
Another Yama's Sanskrit name writes us brahmacharya or continence, which translates into the language of the 21st century as encouragement to always remain as a student, an eternal youngster who is always interested in acquiring knowledge. One who with his/her knowledge is not looking for praise or power, but always thirsty for knowledge, simply seeks it and uses it to become a better student and a better person. On the mat it means keeping the pride in our pocket and treat everyone with fairness.
The last Yama is called aparigraha- non covetousness. It translates into our practice on the mat as trying to place aside any thoughts and beliefs about the present moment, simply focusing on the 'here and now', on the breathing and the body movement.
I do hope that now it is easier for you to understand Yamas, and why it is important for your practice to understand them. Yamas are here to serve us. Whenever we feel disappointed with our practice or even discouraged, we can always come to the sacred knowledge of Yamas and try to listen to what they say. This knowledge is here to keep our practice up and propel us away from any doubt or low self-esteem.
The next 7 limbs are on their way to you pretty soon! As fast as I can manage my to do list actually, and it's the New Year, so it looks like I have few special challenges on it...
Wish you all the success you can handle in 2015 and lots of love and YOGA!