This is my first ever blog, it’s more of a confession really, it’s a big confession for a yoga teacher. I am not really into Yoga Philosophy! Yes, I know, it’s like saying that I have never read the Hatha Yoga Pradapika or I don’t like avocados (I have a copy of the HYP on my bookcase and I love avocados by the way).
Just because I don’t embrace yoga philosophy does not mean that I have a problem with it. I didn’t like history at school, yet I understand the importance of documenting it, remembering it, celebrating it, learning from it, I just couldn’t tell you the dates when things happened or exactly who was involved. I live in the present moment, isn’t that what yogis are supposed to do?
For me, the yoga approach is what’s important, the feeling, the emotions, the ethics; this is what the 8 limbs of yoga are about. The first two being the Yamas and Niyamas. I have met yogis who could recite what Arjuna said to Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, yet they do not follow the basic principles of yoga by spending their Friday nights in a steak house and driving their sports car to the corner shop. It’s no use spreading knowledge if you can’t adhere to the moral principles you preach about.
The Yamas are the five ethical standards which focus on our own behaviour: Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (right use of energy) and Aparigraha (non-greed or non-hoarding). To adhere to these standards we should be non-violent and truthful to ourselves, do not expect more of ourselves than is possible. We should not steal time and emotions from others to satisfy ourselves. We should not plough all of our energy into fruitless things or hold back when we have more energy to dedicate. We should not fill our lives with grandiose and unnecessary possessions.
The Niyamas are regarding self-discipline and observations: Saucha (cleanliness), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (discipline), Svadhyaya (self-study) and Isvara pranidhana (surrender to a higher power). To adhere to these standards we should keep ourselves clean, we should be content with what we have and we should be self-disciplined. We should study our own behaviour, we should seek knowledge and we should study God, if that is what we believe in. Surrender to a higher power could be religious or it could be interpreted as our awareness that we cannot always have personal control of everything.
If we are able to live by these principles, surely we are the ultimate yogis, does it matter what Arjuna said to Krishna?
You have probably guessed by now that my classes do not involve chanting (though I go with the flow in classes I attend), I do not discuss chakras and meridian lines (though it’s all interesting enough) nor do quote philosophy and texts. What I do encourage in my classes is for students to be kind to themselves, respect themselves and be appreciative of what they can achieve. I don’t think I need to do more. Once a person is happy in their own body and mind and respectful of themselves, the rest follows. It all starts with you.