Discover the eight folded path -Part 1
This article consists of 6 parts:
Today you can read part 1: Discover the eight folded path – yamas
If you have been practicing yoga for a while , you are probably familiar with asana, pranayama and/or meditation. All three of them are very important tools to aid your transformation and can help you to live a happier and more contented life.
However, yoga is as much about what we do off our mat, as it is about what we do on it. Yoga is not just a series of poses that we do to aid your transformation. It is a way of life, a philosophy for living.
Centuries ago, the great sage Patanjali designed a map to help you chart your own course to contentment, this map suggests not just asana (postures) and meditation but also attitudes and behaviours.
Maybe you know already where I’m talking about? Yes! I’m talking about the eight folded path of yoga. The eight folded path actually contains advice for daily living and for your emotional and mental well-being; which can result in a more fulfilling and meaningful life.
The next series I’ll dive into the eight folded path of yoga according to sutra 2.29.
“Yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi ashtau angani.
“Restraint, fixed rules, postures, regulation of breath, sense withdrawal, concentration, meditation and higher states of consciousness are eight limbs of yoga.
Yes! Let’s start today with a brief introduction about the first two limbs of the eight folded path. Let’s discover the Yamas and Niyamas (the first two limbs in Patanjali’s yoga sutras) J
Yamas (ethical percepts or core values)
In book 2 of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali explains how and why each of the above self restraints help in the personal growth of an individual. These are described and listed by Patanjali in sutra 2.30
- Ahimsa: Nonviolence, non-harming other living beings
- Satya: truthfulness, non-falsehood
- Asteya : non-stealing
- Bramacharya : sensual abstinence
- Aparigraha : non-avarice, non-possessiveness
While practicing the 8 fold path, people are often disturbed by what we call in yoga philosophy; the kleshas: causes of pain. The yamas are about restraining these causes and behaviors; which are as described in YS 2.3:
- Ignorance (avidya)
- Ego – I feeling (asmita)
- Attachment – liking (raga)
- Aversion – disliking (dvesa)
- Fear of Death (abhinivesah)
The Niyama’s, are so called life style observances that are designed to create well-being for ourselves and others. They are described and listed by Patanjali in sutra 2.32.
- Saucha: cleanliness
- Santosa: contentment
- Tapah: tapas, austerity
- Svadhyaya: self study
- Isvara Pranidhanani: surrender to god
Yama and Niyama as yoga commandments?
When I heard about he yamas for the first time, they reminded me of the 10 commandments of the bible. A big difference between the 10 commandments and the yamas and niyamas is that they aren’t concerned with right or wrong in an absolute sense. There’s no thought of good or bad or heaven or hell. The yamas and niyamas are all about avoiding behaviors that produce suffering and difficulty. Instead you embrace behaviors that lead to a state of happiness. So: rather than thinking of the yamas and niyamas as a ‘to do list’ view them as invitations to act in ways that promote inner and outer peace and bliss. J
Yamas and niyamas as a path to freedom
The whole goal of yoga is self-realization, which can also be called freedom. With the practice of yoga you begin to understand and explore different parts of who you are. This process is a continuing process; it doesn’t unfold at once. It unfolds step by step. Therefore the yamas and niyamas can offer you a tool to transform your life. For me the yamas and the niyamas really are a path to freedom. The word freedom means to me living true to my nature and living a life in peace, truth, abundance, content, pure, love and meaningful connection to myself, my relatives and something bigger than me….Sometimes I like to call this God, sometimes I like to call it power of the universe. The effect of this ‘ big thing’ is a shelter, a womb like refuge. It gives me the feeling I’m protected and loved. Anywhere where my physical body is.
Exercise: sing a mantra!
These days I love to sing the mantra Om namah shivaya. The nature of this mantra is to call upon the higher self, to call upon shiva, the destroyer deity. This aids in the death (destruction of ego) and rebirth achieved through meditation. I bow for Shiva – my true inner Self. Sages consider that the recitation of this mantra is sound therapy for the body, brings peace to the heart and joy to the Atman (soul). Om Namah Shivaya is sung by devotees in prayers and recited by yogis in meditation. It is associated with qualities of prayer, divine love, grace, truth and blissfulness.
These days I sing this mantra mostly at a bonfire together with other people here at a restaurant in Goa. It’s super to sing this mantra in a group; accompanied by a guitar and a drum but if you don’t have this possibility – no worries. You can always sing, where ever you are…if you need company download the song on youtube and start singing with Deva Premal, Krishna Das or another mantra singer 🙂 Enjoy.
Four chapters on freedom, Swami Satyananada saraswati, Yoga publications Trust, Munger, Bihar India