“….We Indians have a more human philosophy of life. We Indians will show this country how to act human. Someday this country will revise it constitution, its laws, in terms of human beings instead of property. If Red Power is to be a power in this country it is because it is ideological….What is the ultimate value of a man’s life? That is the question”. - Excerpt of speech by Vine Deloria 1971
At this time I am feeling a greater need than ever to do more to be of service to the world, to care less for my own wellbeing and more for the welfare of all. In weak moments I reason that I can’t do more or that yoga doesn’t have answers or the little practice that I do each day doesn’t adequately speak to or address what is happening right now with things seeming to be spinning out of control on every fault line across the entire spectrum of existence.
But reading the line above about how the ideology of the Native way of life is what makes it powerful I am reminded that same thing is true of yoga. If yoga is to take its proper place as an main, effective agent for positive change in the world it is because of the philosophy that it is based on—not because of the power of doing the physical postures. Therefore I am keener than ever to share the yoga philosophy that all our beloved physical technology aims to reveal. I will be directing more of my writings and teachings towards articulating the Yamas and Niyamas and other philosophical principles of yoga. I am asking all of us who do yoga—as teachers, students, citizens, parents, lovers, friends, and individuals to embrace a deeper, more profound study of why we do the postures and breathings. And then allow the philosophy to penetrate our efforts in practice and make us more human, open, tolerant, forgiving, connected, and concerned with the welfare of all life.
Below I offer a list of definitions of the 1st and 2nd limbs of yoga. By steeping ourselves in each of ethical principles that yoga is founded upon we avail ourselves of great wisdom that can help us skillfully negotiate complexities of our personal lives and also take greater part in meeting the increasingly challenging local, national, and global circumstances and obstacles that we and our children collectively face.
5 Yamas 5 Ethical principles, 5 No’s
1) Ahimsa (a-opposite of, himsa harming, violence): Non harming, non aggression, non violence, non vengefulness, non retaliation. Relating to, respecting, controlling, and properly channeling one’s anger, entering into conflict consciously, expressing anger when necessary with restraint and minimizing harm,
2) Satya (sat true, real): Truth, honesty commitment to continual, ongoing rigorous introspection and reflection to differentiate between truth and falsity, honesty and dishonesty.
3) Asteya (a-opposite of, steya practice of stealing): Non Stealing, non Covetous, trusting that the Great Source is providing one with what is needed to make a fulfilling life, trusting one’s own original viewpoints and creativity
4) Brahmacarya (Brahma(n) Universal Self, Divinity, Sacred Knowledge, carya-occupied with, engaged with, absorbed in): Conservation of vital energy, chastity, life energy channeled away from mundane towards sacred concerns
5) Aparigraha (a-opposite of, graha-take, seize, grab, pari-on all sides): Non possessiveness, non greed, non acquisitiveness, non attachment—minimizing need for material gain and/or material possessions.
5 Niyamas, 5 positive duties, 5 yes’s
1) Saucha (purity): Purity, purification, clearing out all that doesn’t belong, clarity, spacious, clean, orderly, fitting order, understanding the hidden, underlying sequential order of actions that lead to a desirable outcome.
2) Santosha (contentment): Satisfaction, optimism, trust in what is
3) Tapas (heat, burn, to shine): Fiery discipline, intense monastic, solitary physical and psychic spiritual practice, sealing in life force and creating a psychic vessel of containment like a pressure cooker in order to win self knowledge.
4) Svadhyaya (sva-self, own adhyaya-lesson, reading or dhyai contemplate, muse, meditate): Traditionally study of sacred yogic texts and chanting of mantras but also introspection, contemplation, reflection, meditation, internal awareness, what is revealed through creating an internal state of equanimity, stillness, silence, and consciousness.
5) Isvara Pranidhana (Isvara—God (personal and/or supreme): Lord of Yoga, Shiva, Divinity, Self, Source of Sacred Knowledge, Higher Power, force beyond ego or volition Pranidhana—bow, surrender, worship, yearn to learn from, listen, trust, give over to, dedicate) dedication to the Lord of Yoga, perfect alignment of attention on the Great Source of all life, affirmation of the hidden sacred thread that connects and unifies all life, dropping ego and will and trusting in the more powerful, profound, underlying, unseen force that is the author of the great story of life.