Summary: Read on to get information on the ancient take into Yoga Philosophy in brief.
Yoga is often mistaken just as a physical form of exercise. Yes….it is definitely an excellent form of body workout. However, it also directs us to awareness and internal enlightenment. The profound art weaves physical and mental activity together and, yields profound benefits for the mind, body and spirit. Though there are many theories and scriptures about yoga, the one that holds one the highest importance is the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali.
Came into existence around 2, 500 BC, Patanjali organized the teachings of yoga into Yoga Sutras. It is said that the great sage Patanjali lived around 2500 years ago. He is known for his great contribution of codifying the humongous details of yoga into 196 sutras. His work is considered as the complete treatise on yoga. He successfully outlined the entire details of yoga in just four short chapters including the obstacles one may encounter, the powers, potentials one may gain and the ultimate glory of Self-realization. As per Sage Patanjali, the greatest purpose of a man on earth is to know the self at deepest level. For this, he listed different disciplines which help achieve this lofty goal, once mastered. He introduced these 8 disciplines as a single discipline and, named it as Ashtanga yoga-- the eightfold or eight-limbed path. Do not think of it as the popular style of yoga with the same name. These eight limbs are the foundation of yoga which promotes a life of integrity; growth on physical, mental, and spiritual levels. These eight limbs are -- Yamas. Niyamas, Asanas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. All of them describe a different aspect of yoga.
The first two practices or limbs are Yamas and Niyamas. They can be referred as ‘moral codes’ or ways of ‘right living’. These ethics form the foundation of the whole yoga practice. Honoring these, one remains mindful of every action and, cultivates a more present and aware state of being. Here are brief details of the first two limbs of yoga:
1. Yamas or Restraints: Yamas can be referred as an ethical code of conduct. They are more than just a list of do’s and don'ts. They remind us of our fundamental nature which is compassionate, honest, generous, and peaceful. They represent the moral virtues, which if achieved, contributes to health and wellness of society. They are categorized into five categories given below:
• Ahimsa : Ahimsa means ‘nonviolence’ in word, actions and thoughts. It speaks of kindness, friendliness, compassion for all and thoughtful consideration of others. It means not to be cruel, injure or hurt anyone, including humans and creatures. It also implies that we should never adopt a harmful attitude while performing our duties and responsibilities.
• Satya: Satya is the commitment to truth. It is about being honest, genuine, considerate, and sincere. It emphasizes upon speaking the truth. Though, it is not necessary to be truthful on all occasions, if it is harming someone unnecessarily. We should be considerate about what we say, how we say and in what way we say, and how does it affect others. If speaking the truth will bring negative consequences, it is better to say nothing.
• Asteya: Steya means ‘to steal’ and Asteya is just opposite of it. Asteya refers to non-stealing or never take anything for free which does not belong to us. It also means to never take advantage of someone who entrusts something to us or believe in us. It also implies not taking anything which is not ours without permission and, also not to use something for a different purpose to that intended or, beyond the time permitted by the owner.
• Brahmacharya: Brahmacharya is about self-restraint or self-control, particularly in sexual activities and the sense such as seduction and reaction to seduction. Practicing Brahmacharya means using our sexual energy to connect with our spiritual self and not in the ways which may harm others.
• Aparigraha: It is about being not greedy and take only what is necessary. It is about taking only what we have earned and let go our attachments to things.
2. Niyamas: Niyamas reflect “rules” or “laws” for personal observance. These rules are recommended for healthy living and spiritual existence. They are more personal and intimate than yamas. It refers to the practices concerned with ourselves. There are a total of five niyamas listed by Patanjali.
• Sauca: It refers to purity. Sauca is about purification and cleanliness of the body and mind from inner and outer aspects. Outer cleanliness emphasis upon keeping our life uncluttered and orderly. And, inner cleanliness is about keeping our body and mind healthy from inside.
• Santosa: It refers to contentment--Contentment with what we have. It is about having a sense of modesty and contentment. It is about being happy and content with what we have rather being disappointed about what we don’t have.
• Tapas: It talks about the enthusiastic and disciplined use of our burning energy. It means to heat the body in order to cleanse it of all desires that stand in our way of achieving self-realization. It refers to direct our energy in engaging our life to create a union with the divine.
• Svadhyaya: Consisted of two Sanskrit words ‘Sva’ means self and ‘Adhyaya’ means examination or inquiry, the fourth niyama refers to self-study and observation. It means to become aware of all our activities and efforts in order to live in balance with all aspects of life.
• Isvara Pranidhana: The fifth niyama refers to surrender to divine. It talks about laying all your actions at the feet of god and celebrating the spirituality. Learn and imbibe the teachings of yogic philosophy to live a healthier, fulfilled and blissful life.