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Yoga as a way of life

When one hears the word yoga, it is common to simply think about the physical practice of holding yoga postures. As viewed by the ancients, yoga is a way of life that also includes breathing techniques, sense withdrawal, concentration, meditation and transcendence.

For the next several weeks, we will be focusing on two facets of yoga philosophy known as the yamas and niyamas. Yamas is literally translated as social restraints, niyamas as observances. You might think of them as guidelines or disciplines. Author Deborah Adele shares “I think of them as jewels, because they are the rare gems of wisdom that give direction to a well-loved and joyful life.”

We will begin with exploring the yamas, which include nonviolence, truthfulness, nonstealing, nonexcess and nonpossessiveness. As you read the aforementioned list, you may get the feeling these guidelines are restrictive or limiting. I assure you they are just the opposite. With awareness and practice, the yamas and niyamas begin to open life up to us more fully.

There is no shortage of different interpretations of how each principle can be applied to life. As a yoga student, I find I learn something new each time I hear a teacher talk about the yamas and niyamas. As we take the time to examine each of these principles individually, I encourage you to embrace how each relates to your personal self-care. Most likely, there will be guidelines you feel you live very well, and other areas you recognize you may have room for growth.  

Please tune in next week, for a look at the principle of nonviolence, known as Ahimsa.