Patanjalis Yogasutra is one of the oldest and therefore the most important scripts in the whole world of Yoga. The Yogasutra consists of 195 Sanskrit verses in four chapters and is meant to be the essence of the Yoga path. This path is not a linear one where you must master one step before the other. Much more it is to be seen as different aspects that can be applied simultaneously to our lives.
The basic principles are summarized within the eight limbs of Yoga:
- Yama, the ethical values or social restraints
- Niyama, the disciplines or personal observance of purity, tolerance and study
- Asanas, the physical practice
- Pranayama, the control of life force by the result of a well-controlled breathing
- Pratyahara, the drawing back of the senses
- Dharana, the concentration or the focus on one point
- Dhyana, the mediation
- Samadhi, the enlightenment or self-realization
The first two limbs – Yama and Niyama, consisting of the dos and don’ts of a Yogic way of life – encourage us to live in peace with ourselves and with each other and lead us towards the journey inward to discover divinity within ourselves and our surroundings.
The physical asana practice helps us by preparing the body to control our life force by practicing pranayama which naturally leads us to Pratyahara, to draw our senses inward. By practicing those parts of Yoga, we learn step by step to fade out external distractions and come closer to meditative states, to Dhyana, and maybe one day to Samadhi, the enlightened.
Yama, the ethical values or the Dont’s of a Yogic way of life
In the Yogasutra II.30 Patanjali writes
“Non-killing, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence and non-receiving are called Yama”
and goes on with II.31, saying
“These, unbroken by time, place, purpose and caste are great vows.”
The five principal ethic values of the Yogasutras are:
- Ahimsa, the non-harming in thought, word and deed which means act without any violence
- Satya, the truthfulness and integrity in thought, word and deed
- Asteya, the non-stealing of objects, experience, time etc.
- Brahmacharya, the path to divinity through moderation or the middle path
- Aparigraha, the minimalism or lack of greed
The whole thing is very nicely summed up by Don Miguel Ruiz, who simply reminds us to
“Be impeccable with your words. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love “.
Niyama, the internal disciplines or the DOs of a Yogic way of life
Internal and external purification, contentment, mortification, study, and worship of god are the Niyamas, Patanjali says, in the Yogasutra II.33 followed by II.33.
“To obstruct thoughts which are inimical to Yoga contrary thoughts will be brought.”
The five Niyamas describe the DOs of a Yogic lifestyle and refer to the personal disciplines not related to interactions with the outside world:
- Sauch, the purity or cleanliness of body and mind
- Santosha, the contentment
- Tapas: the austerity
- Svadhyaya: the self-study
- Ischvara-pranidhana: devotion
But how may we live a spiritual life whilst embracing the reality of living this human life? The answer is not too complicated! Life is not calling us to change the world she only pleads with us to truly take care ourselves.
Our ability to take a moment, mind the gap, and then keep minding the gap is all that we need to concentrate on within our spiritual practice. I kindly invite you to be fully aware and mindful in any situation and see if it makes a difference!
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