Yoga philosophy, specifically Patanjali’s yoga, consists of a set of guidelines for one to live a morally disciplined and purposeful life, in order to advance along a spiritual path towards enlightenment. Yoga poses, or asanas, are simply a part of these guidelines. The other parts include Yamas and Niyamas, roughly translating to moral codes/ right thinking and right living/ behavior respectively.
The underlying rule is that everything is interconnected. Strictly speaking, Yamas and Niyamas form the foundation of a yoga practice as opposed to asanas which serve more as a physical extension. One cannot truly improve on asanas without achieving an understanding and practice on the philosophical aspects.
I approach this topic today from a point of personal observation and takeaway. Today, many of us approach yoga seeking clarity and peace of mind. However, we are often less receptive to the philosophies and some even shun the guidelines as idealistic rules to achieve so-called enlightenment. This is understandable since we have lived decades by our own moral/ behavioral rules, set by schools, religion and family. Moreover, enlightenment is often thought of as fiction depicted in movies as a seated man with rays of light shining out of his bald head, or lady with 1000 hands holding a vase, depending on which movie you watched.
Yet can we question the legitimacy of seeking peace and clarity through physical activity alone? There are hundreds of other sports to do. Is it just because yoga is slower moving..?
Of course, I am only human who has also lived decades by the pre-dictated moral/ behavioral rules. Reading the Yamas and Niyamas, one guideline stood out to me and resonated with something deep within – Asteya.
Asteya means “non-stealing”. On the surface level, it literally means not stealing other people’s physical possession. On the next level, it also means not stealing resources, such as taking other people’s ideas and credit, or things that could be better used on others. Finally, It also refers to non-stealing of time.
Are you stealing other people’s time by being late for your appointments? Are you a no-show at your booked workout session? Are you stealing time from yourself by misappropriating your hours scrolling on social media? I am definitely guilty of these. When I am supposed to be working, I am procrastinating. When I am out with my friends, I think of the work left undone. These are time stolen from both myself and my friends, leaving me anxious and distracted all the time. How good do you think your asanas are when you are anxious and distracted? Remember, everything is interconnected.
For now, I set my intentions –
I will honor and respect my time, and that of others. By being present on the mat, at work, and in life. To start and complete what I set out to do.
At present, even though I have only just begun practicing this mindfully, I do observe some improvements. Every time I want to laze, I ask myself why I am disrespecting my time for the sake of some cat videos online! The results are more consistent asana practices, better work productivity, and less mentally distracted. I also practice ahimsa – kindness on myself when I do fall off the train sometimes (it happens!).
So if you are one of the aforementioned seeking peace/ clarity, do read through the Yamas and Niyamas and see what resonates to you. Then apply it on the mat and in your life. You can use my intentions as your own too, I will not consider it stealing😉 While cherry-picking is frowned upon in philosophical studies, I invite you to do so. This is because there could be many entry points in a single journey but the destination still remains the same. Remember, everything is interconnected. Even though we may never achieve enlightenment, I hope at the very least, we will lead a life in which we are present in every moment.