Yoga Power for Life

Yoga Power for Life

“If We Surrender We Die” (Excerpt by Native American activist and scholar Vine Deloria 1971) 

“…. 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”.

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 as much because of the power of doing the physical postures.  Therefore I am keener than ever to share the yoga philosophy that is the backbone of the physical technology we love.  I will spend more time devoting myself to practicing, writing about, and teaching the 1st and 2nd limbs (see below) and other philosophical principles of yoga.

I am asking all of us who are devoted to yoga to embrace a deeper, more profound study of why we do the postures and breathings that make our daily discipline.   And then also apply the philosophy--as teachers, students, families, lovers, friends, communities, and citizens--allow the ethical principles that make up yoga’s sacred spiritual ideology to not only penetrate our efforts in practice but make us more human, open, tolerant, forgiving, connected, and concerned with the welfare of all life.   

It was 1971 when Vine Deloria spoke out for us to live collectively by a more human philosophy.   Today in 2018 if anything we are in a worse not better position in this regard and our extreme lack of civility and divisiveness can even make his words seem grossly impractical, foolish, unrealistic, uttered by a naïve or too simple dreamer.  But I am also such a dreamer and hope that you are too and that we will continue to speak up. 

Never mind that it is natural to feel outnumbered and like an underdog in the fight for such distant ideals as understanding, peace or justice for all.  Never mind that it is inevitable to have weak moments and to fall into reasoning 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 the too many wrongs and injustices happening right now across the entire spectrum of existence. 

Vine Deloria’s statement “ to surrender is to die” reminds us of the reality of our dire situation and alerts us to the essential fact that each one of us makes a difference when we yoke our lives to spiritual principles. It is up to me and you to represent and value ‘Red Power’ and ‘Yoga Power’ and any Power that stands for the basic human values that can help lead us towards greater understanding, empathy, universal peace, justice, non greed, and non violence.   Our force is tiny but infinitely mighty because it is rooted in what is most worthy, sacred. and human in us.

There is a greater need than ever to perform tapas, to dig deep within and find the strength and wisdom to live more from a place of simplicity, listening, gentleness, and humanity.  Your efforts can serve in small ways to offset, temper, soften, and balance the world that is going mad with anger, misunderstanding, lashing out, acrimony, and greed.  Now is the time to care less for my own singular wellbeing and care more for the welfare of all. 

Below I offer some ways of thinking about and applying 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 negotiate the complexities of our personal lives and also take greater part in meeting the increasingly challenging obstacles that we and our children face.  


1st  Limb

          Yama (restraint)

          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 rigorous introspection and reflection on difference between truth and falsity, honesty and dishonesty


3) Asteya (a-opposite of, steya practice of stealing)

-Non Stealing, non Covetous,

-Trusting in the Great Source to provide one with what is needed for fulfillment in life

-Trusting one’s own viewpoints and creativity

-Valuing and trusting originality

-Daring to be different


4) Brahmacarya (Brahma(n) Universal Self, Divinity, Sacred Knowledge--carya-occupied with, engaged with, absorbed in)

-Conservation of vital energy

-Chastity, Celibacy

-Life energy that is channeled away from personal, mundane, worldly concerns towards sacred, spiritual, universal 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. 


2nd Limb

     Niyama (observance)

     5 Niyamas, 5 positive duties, 5 yes’s


1) Saucha (purity)


-Clearing out all that doesn’t belong

-Spacious, clean, and orderly


-Fitting order, following a sequential order of actions to achieve desirable outcome


2) Santosha (contentment)



-Trust in what is


3) Tapas (heat, burn, to shine)

-Fiery discipline, austerity, deprivation 

-Withdrawing of senses inward

-Purification, fasting, abstaining from material gratification

-Intense monastic, solitary, physical, and psychic spiritual practice

-Sealing in life force, creating a psychic vessel of containment in order to sublimate anger, libido, and/or greed and transform these energies into sacred knowledge 


4) Svadhyaya (sva-self, own-- adhyaya-lesson, reading or dhyai contemplate, muse, meditate)

-Traditional meaning-- study of sacred yogic texts and chanting of mantras 

-Also:  Introspection, contemplation, reflection, meditation, and internal awareness

-What is revealed in an internal state of equanimity, stillness, silence, and consciousness


5) Isvara Pranidhana (Isvara-God, Lord of Yoga, Divinity, Self, Sacred Knowledge, Higher Power--Pranidhana—bow, surrender, worship, 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, will, and trusting in the powerful, profound, underlying, unseen force that is the author of the great story of life





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