Five to six years after my first ever yoga class many many years ago, I was introduce to the 8 limbs of yoga practice based on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. Until then I was always under the impression that practice was about perfecting the way of having my nose touches my shins!
Ok, this affirmed my natural instincts that this practice was more than its physical representation. However, I was unsure what it was about the practice that assisted me in getting through a rather dark period of my life in my early twenties. Yoga philosophy was not a huge highlight in the classes I attended but it was sprinkled into the class very sparingly. I am not being critical of that aspect as I do not think my hyper-mobile early twenties self would have stay with the practice if Yoga philosophy was a big part of the class.
Having letting go part of me that wanted to do the prefect downward facing dog or be the flattest in the intense seated forwardbend, Paschimottanasana, I started looking up the 8 limbs of the Yoga practice. In all honesty, many of the translations that I read were very academic and ‘hardline’ that I found difficult to resonant with. However, the curiosity has been sparked.
few years later, I found ‘softer’ and more practicable interpretation of the 29th verse of the second chapter of yoga sutra, that I started to weave the 8 limbs of the practice together.
For me the power of the 8 limbs comes truly within the first two limbs, Yamas and Niyamas. Yes, before even hitting the yoga mat.
“Yama – Remembrance of your True Nature”
“Niyama – Evolution towards the harmony to True Nature”
Both Yama and Niyama have 5 guiding posts. For me these make up 10 universal codes of values and attitudes for being true to oneself. Below, I am sharing my interpretation (based on my readings and what I resonanted with) and some practices.
Yama No.1 – Ahimsa
Interpretation – Kindness to all being
Practice: Embrace all your perfections and flaws. With kindness, start by noting those self-denigrating practices. As Pema Chodron says ” Rather than nurturing self-denigrating, begin to cultivate clear-seeing kindness.”
Yama No.2 – Satya
Interpretation – Live in truth and with integrity
Practice: Use courage to face the real truth that lies within your heart.
Yama No.3 – Asteya
Interpretation – Be generous
Practice: Practice being generous in thought towards someone that you find challenging.
Yama No.4 – Brahmacharaya
Interpretation – Moderation
Practice: Enjoy all the good things in your life without excess. Even if it means not filling very single moment of your life with what you love.
Yama No.5 – Aparigaha
Interpretation – let go of control and grasping
Practice: Choose a small aspect of your life that you will be willing to let go of control. For me, I started this one by letting my partner do the weekly shopping. It is amazing how one can hold onto beliefs and ideas on how a simple task should be done.
Niyama No.1 – Saucha
Interpretation – Simplicity and purity
Practice: Apply the KISS (Keep It Simple S…..) principle as much as you can.
Niyama No.2 – Sentosa
Interpretation – Contentment
Practice: Have a gratitude practice. It is as simple as taking a moment to express what you are grateful for in your life before hopping out of bed.
Niyama No.3 – Tapas
Interpretation – Dedicated effort
Practice: Face hurdles and challenges with dedicated effort and grace.
Niyama No.4 – Svadhaya
Interpretation – Self-reflection and study
Practice: Be mindful of the potential consequences of your actions and inactions. Allow yourself to learn from your mistakes.
Niyama No.5 – Isvara Pranidhana
Interpretation – Surrendering and trust
Practice: This can be a difficult one (especially of us, control freak). However, allow a sense of flow in your life after the effort has been put in. This is not to be mistaken as blind faith.
There you go, the code of conduct from the ancient text as applicable for me and hopefully helps you too.