One of the first emails I send to my yoga teacher trainees before they join me for a training includes the question “What is yoga to you?” The common translation of yoga is “union,” or “to yoke.” Some people will tell you yoga is a union of body, mind, and spirit, others will tell you it’s a religion. For every 10 people you ask, you’ll get 10 different answers. I find yoga to be such a personal practice that I struggle defining it one way. For me yoga is a way of life; it’s self-discovery, exercise, therapy, meditation, and medicine. It’s a spiritual practice that connects me to something greater; it’s a physical practice that grounds me and makes me appreciate the strength and power of my body; it’s both challenging and fun. Yoga is what I turn to when I feel like my life is going to shit and it’s how I celebrate beautiful highs and magical moments. My yoga practice varies from day to day.
Yoga has been around for more than 5,000 years, but ancient yoga looked quite a bit different from what most people consider yoga today. Yoga’s goal throughout the years has been to answer life’s tough questions – Who am I? What is my purpose? How do I connect to something greater? - and it’s evolved greatly through time and location as our lifestyles have evolved. I find it totally normal and expected that we practice yoga in a very different way than our yogi ancestors did. Because most of us lead relatively sedentary lifestyles (working on computers, driving to get where we need to go), it makes sense that we are drawn to the physical aspect of yoga, the postures or asanas. But as most of us discover when we start to delve a bit deeper, yoga is much more than just poses.
One of my favorite sessions of teacher training (each time I discover something new for my own life and practice), is our discussion of The Eight Limbs of Yoga. Patanjali, the “father of yoga” and one of the leading sages associated with yoga, defined these guidelines for living in the Yoga Sutras as follows:Yama. Yama is often explained as restraint or control, and there are 5 Yamas that can be characterized as ways of controlling yourself or behaving in relation to the outside world. They are: Ahimsa = non-violence; Satya = truthfulness; Asteya = non-stealing; Bramacharya = self control over physical impulses of excess; and Aparigraha = non-hoarding.
I’m adding a series of classes to my YouTube channel that explores each of these limbs, or layers of yoga, in detail through a guided practice. Follow along each week, leave comments and thoughts, and find your own connections and examples in your life. This week we dig into the Yamas!
Helen's Adventures as a Traveling Yogi
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