A Very Brief Intro to the Philosophy of Yoga

Hey guys!

Not long now till the opening of Chandra, so we thought we would share with you some of our values and beliefs to give you an introduction to the space.

Chandra is an intimate space with deep traditional and philosophical values. Yoga is a beautiful way to show love to your mind and body, to take time for yourself and tune in and connect with your inner true self. Once we do this we find we give more freely to others, give and receive love more openly, we live in the present moment and open up to the many wonders that life has to offer. 

One of the biggest misunderstandings of Yoga is that it can only be practised on the mat, with physical postures and meditation, and with the massive (and positive) hype that physical yoga has created, the tradition and philosophical magic has kind of been pushed to the background. 

So, we would like to share just a drop of the magic of the Philosophy of Yoga with anyone who would like listen, starting with a brief introduction to the Eight Limbs of Yoga.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga is a philosophy brought to us by an incredible man, the great sage Patanjali. At short, Patanjali completely embodied Yoga, and brought to us Eight Stages in which we can begin to practice the art of refining awareness, harmonising the mind and bringing balance to the mind and body. 

Before we even reach the third limb, which is the physical practice of Asana (postures) - the most popular way of practicing yoga in the Western world today, we have two limbs - the Yamas and Niyamas.

In this post, we are going to give focus to number 1. The YAMAS. There are not enough blog posts that could ever cover the teachings of the Yamas, and what is incredible about all of the teachings of Yoga is that they are constantly practised and refined throughout your whole life and possibly lifetimes to come. But here we are - trying to give you a brief and subtle introduction to this seemingly simple yet extremely complex practice.

Here goes!

The YAMAS

Your social code - relationship with the external world - social and ethical disciplines which consist of five stages in itself;

Satya meaning Truthfulness

Ahimsa meaning Non-Violence to all things - humans and animals, big or small, the Earth and all it inhabits.

Asteya meaning Honesty or Non-Stealing

Brahmacharya which is sexual control or abstinence

Aparigraha meaning Non-Possessiveness

So, for the purpose of keeping things simple, let’s take away the Sanskrit terms, we have the practice of Truthfulness, Non-Violence, Honesty/Non-Stealing, Sexual Control or Abstinence, Non-Possessiveness. The practise of the Yamas is “designed to harmonise one’s social interactions.” If we become more aware of the application of the Yamas in our daily lives, we will bring balance to our relationships with others and the Earth, turning our internal practice into an external positive, and when we emanate positivity, it spreads. 

When we read the translations of the five Yamas it all seems so simple. Ahhh yes, I know truthfulness, I know about not being violent and sure, always being honest, not stealing from anyone. But when we look further, when we get out our imaginary telescope, do we actually know? Can we Honestly say we practise all of these things all of the time. Unless you are an ‘Enlightened’ or a highly realised being, and if we are being truly honest, the answer is probably a straight off no.

And that’s okay. We are all human beings faced with the ups and downs of life. Practising together in this beautifully crazy whirlwind we have been thrown into. The only thing we can do is cultivate awareness, being aware allows us to make the changes, when we notice that little white lie cropping up again - catching it before it comes out, or making sure we recycle properly, feeding the cat on time when he or she needs to be fed - obviously these are small things in the enormity of life’s issues - but these are all things we can practise becoming more aware of, and then that awareness grows and we flourish as human beings, helping each other and the planet as we go. 

To dissect further:

Non-Violence - Sanskrit: Ahimsa

Non-violence seems self explanatory, be kind to people we interact with, show compassion, don’t physically or mentally hurt others. However, in a world of production and materialism, we aren’t always aware of what violence we are unknowingly supporting and inflicting upon others and the Earth. For example, do we know where our food has come from, how our clothes have been made, what process has it gone through to be on the shelves in the shops. Unfortunately, it isn’t on the labels whether or not a child has been exploited in another country in order for us to buy a £10 top. Products usually have a Cruelty Free leaping bunny sign if they haven’t tested on animals but how many of those products in Boots have this stamp (not many), and how many people look out for it. We have to do our own research; we have to know what companies, processes, and morals we are supporting by purchasing. If we knew, if we were really truthful about it, most of us wouldn’t buy it. When we practice Non-Violence we cultivate compassion, and from compassion we learn how to love completely.

Truthfulness - Sanskrit: Satya

Being wholly truthful allows us to connect with our divine. We see things as they are, not allowing our ego to blur the truth, to give us false hope. When we are truthful with others we are true to ourselves and vice versa. The mind becomes clear and when Truthfulness is fully established the master is able to “acquire the result from his (her) Karma according to his (her) wish” the commentary from Swami Satyananda Saraswati’s Four Chapters on Freedom goes on to explain “Usually the result of Karma is independent of our wishes but it is not so with a person who has perfected truthfulness” - ahhh Karma - absolute whole other realm in which we will explore in future posts. Note, Truthfulness follows Non-Violence, we must also be mindful of speaking truths if it causes harm to another - a gift some people have yet it is very difficult to acquire. It takes patience and awareness, and of course life experience.

Honesty or Non-Stealing - Sanskrit: Asteya

Respecting others and not taking anything that isn’t given freely. Having universal honesty, not taking peoples possessions, time, ideas. This takes awareness of the Ego, living honestly, making sure your way of life doesn’t allow for or inflict discomfort or harm to others- no matter what might be in it for you (and what might be in it is never genuine, and can never bring true happiness). This relates to Non-Violence, being aware and honest about what process the materials you acquire have gone through, has anyone’s time been taken unfairly, have people or animals been badly treated and been put in a position against their will etc. In the Four Chapters on Freedom the commentary on Asteya states “When the mirror is clean, you can see your face clearly in it. The virtue of asteya or honesty brings about a kind of awareness by which you become aware of hidden wealth” and in the words of Patanjali “all gems present themselves.”

Sexual control or Abstinence - Sanskrit: Brahmacharya 

By bringing control and balance to impulses of excess, we can build a sense of stability in moderation, overcoming greed and making choices that can help us become stronger and wiser in our actions. In the practice of sexual control it is said that we learn how to break addictions and preserve physical energy - feeling brighter and more genuinely fulfilled.

Non-Possessiveness - Sanskrit: Aparigraha

When we are obsessed with possessions we are distracting ourselves from our true inner self. Accumulating objects and even trying to possess other people usually signals a deep dissatisfaction with oneself. In reality, everything that we need is within, and everything in materialist society doesn’t really exist – it has no meaning. When we learn to curb our want for external possessions we become less selfish, instead of being greedy with objects or people and their time, we give more, and usually find that time becomes endless. Those things we thought we could never possibly fit in become easy, and you wonder why you ever thought you didn’t have the time in the first place. Ridding ourselves of unnecessary distractions, gives us the space to grow, to grow freely, and become the person that we truly are – not one that society tells us to be. 

It means giving up the tendency to accumulate objects of utility and enjoyment. The aspirant keeps only those objects that are essential for living. This keeps the mind unoccupied and also he does not have to worry about anything because there is nothing there to be protected.”

Ultimate goals!

We hope you have enjoyed this brief introduction to the Yamas! As you can see, there are many layers to each thread, and each time we approach the teaching we see it in a completely new light. New layers always reveal themselves, as they do when you look inward on your spiritual journey, and that is why the teachings and philosophy are so important to Chandra in our practice. You can practice all of the time, with each moment, each interaction, which is truly beautiful.

Chandra is a supportive environment for spiritual exploration. To anyone who comes to our classes, we hope you have a wholesome experience and leave feeling rejuvenated and with a little more space within for further discovery of your true self and the magic of life.