Come on this journey with me as I go through the 8 Limbs of Yoga. The 8 Limbs of Yoga are a specialized way in which we practice yoga. The 8 limbs take us deeper into yoga beyond our yoga mat. Knowing, living, and practicing all of the 8 limbs will take you to higher place within yourself. It will allow you to say that your practice of yoga is "on and off the mat." So over the next couple of weeks I will be diving into the first 2 limbs of yoga being the Yamas and Niyamas. These two limbs focus on our behavior and just our interaction with the world. There are five Yamas and Niyamas each. The five Yamas are ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, and aparigraha. The Yamas are your basic vows and values you hold towards the world. It is how we interact with the world on a moral level. And the five Niyamas are saucha, santosha, tapas, svadhyaya, and ishvara pranidhana. The Niyamas are your personal practices or observances. They are a guide in what your behavior or actions should look like. Join me as we dive into our first Yama ahimsa.
1st Yama: Ahimsa
The first Yama that I've taken the time to really explore and ponder on is ahimsa. Ahimsa is the practice of non-harming or non-violence to all living things. Its basic principle or idea is that we don't harm any living thing and we hold compassion for all living things. When really taking a look at what it looks like to practice ahimsa, I learned something super important. It's important to know that ahimsa has a spectrum from very bad to very good and many behaviors fall in the in-between. As human beings, we all at some point in our life have fallen on both sides of the spectrum. The far left side being the opposite of non-harming so pretty much anything that harms would fall on this left side of the spectrum. Then you have your right side of the spectrum which is all things that are non-harming but small things to things on a larger scale. The goal in life is to be on the right side of the spectrum and try to move towards a larger scale of non-harming. When we talk about non-harming, this doesn't only refer to your physical actions. This also refers to how we speak to others and ourselves. And it is also our thoughts and how we think about others and ourselves. So to be honest, a lot of you are practicing ahimsa in your everyday life today but it's time you become even more present and mindful of what that looks like so that you can ensure you aren't practicing on the left side of ahimsa in the harmful side. So what did I observe about myself during this period of heightened attention and what does my practice of ahimsa look like for me? Well for me I did notice some of my actions do fall on the left side of ahimsa but remember this is normal (we're all human and we are far from perfect). I found that I sometimes am quick to make fun of someone which is seemingly harmless but could be harmful to that person though. I noticed how sometimes negative thoughts can creep into my mind about a person no matter how positive I try to be. And I at times listen to others from place of anger, fear, or hurt which results in me being unkind in my response to that person. This is a form of harm to your neighbors which is not non=harming. And I tend to allow self-doubt to creep inside my head at times which is allowing my thoughts to do harm to myself. So I realized that I have been planting negative seeds that put me on the opposite end of the spectrum of ahimsa. Negative seeds that can create harm are things like aggression, jealousy, hastiness, and selfishness. All of these things will lead you to some type of harm rather it is to yourself, your neighbor, or the world around you. Now I'm not going to say that I haven' t been practicing ahimsa on the positive side of the spectrum because I absolutely have. Anything you do that is non-harming and helpful towards yourself, your neigbor, or the world around you is practicing ahimsa. I will say I fall on the positive end of the spectrum moreso than I do on the negative end. I practice ahimsa in my life through taking care of my body through exercise and fitness and trying to feed it the right things. I also practice ahimsa by being kind and uplifting my neighbors and trying to help out in any way I know how. I try to be a light in others lives. And I always try to practice positive thinking about myself and the world. Of course ahimsa is not just a practice you "do" for a day. Ahimsa is a practice that you take and you "live it" each and everyday of your life striving to plant positive seeds such as patience, compassion, presence, and kindness. So plant those positive seeds that will move you towards the right side of ahimsa by surrounding yourself with good people, control the stimuli we feed our brain such as the music we listen to, the TV shows and movies we watch, social media messages and feed we're seeing, listen to uplifting messages like positive affirmations, podcasts, and take some action by volunteering to help create a compassion and empathy inside. These are all just some ways we can practice ahimsa in our everyday lives. Will you join me on this journey of practicing ahimsa?
2nd Yama: Satya
Satya is our second Yama of our first limb of yoga. Satya is the practice of truthfulness. My time observing and learning about satya was eye-opening. So we all probably know about truth and honesty. It's the moral code of life really and a pretty important piece in any relationship you hold; your relationships with family, significant other, friendships, coworkers, business partnership, etc. The basis of ANY good, solid relationship is the premise that you are truthful in your intentions, your actions, your thoughts, and your words. When we think about satya, it's important that we understand that there is a difference between truth and opinion. We cannot make the mistake and think that when we're speaking "truthfully" that our "opinions" count as truth. One thing I learned was that truthfulness should not be spoken from a place of personal beliefs. Our truths are typically constructed based on our upbringing, our social constructs, preferences, and just the different lenses that have been placed on us through our life. So be careful and err on the side of caution when someone asks you to be truthful with them about something because not all words need to be spoken. We need to learn to pause before we speak and ask ourselves one question: does my words or truthfulness pass through the 4 gates of speech: one is it truthful? two is it necessary? three is it the appropriate time? and four is it kind or can it be said kindly? One interesting thing I learned (which ultimately makes sense matter of fact) is our first two yamas work hand in hand. Satya is typically paired with ahimsa because it's important that our truth to ourselves or others is it does not harm. I don't want you guys to mistake me saying be careful when speaking your truth as in to not be truthful and lie. What I'm saying is that one must take the time to evaluate that what they are speaking is in fact truth, it's the appropriate time, it's necessary, and that it doesn't harm. So what I experienced during this period of exploring satya is that staying true to myself and living a truthful life comes in the form of helping others. I realize that I'm not being truthful or living my truth when I deny myself of helping others. I feel the guilt sink in knowing I can help others but then I don't. Let me clarify. When I say I don't feel like I'm living my truth or in truthfulness when I don't help others is because typically when I don't help others, it often times isn't coming from a place of honesty. It's usually not because I can't or don't have it for instance, it's more-so because I either SAY I can't or don't have it which isn't living in truthfulness. Of course there are times where I truly can't or don't have it and that's perfectly fine but I feel like I can do something else most likely to help. So I try to live MY truth by lending a helping hand when I can so that I can live in truthfulness and honesty and just overall practice ahimsa as well. I'll give two instances where I had to live my truth when helping others or I would have felt bad about not having helped. One day I saw a man struggling to push and steer his truck at the gas station trying to get it to the pump because he had run out of gas. He was all alone and it was apparent he was struggling and needed help. So I jumped out of my car with no hesitation (and yes I'm aware that one must evaluate the situation of helping someone before just jumping right in...I'm working on this so that I don't input myself into any dangerous situations-courtesy to my love looking out for my safety) and asked if I could assist him by helping him steer the wheel while he pushed. He was grateful for the assist. Then we had 2-3 more guys jump out to help push it to the pump. Another instance was when my boyfriend and I were heading back to my place, we saw a guy on the side of the rode in an unsafe place near the road in what looked like unconscious state and it just didn't sit right with either of us. So we turned around to see if he was okay. Long story short, we got an ambulance over to check the guy out. We don't know how that story ended but when I think about living my truth, I think about staying true to me and that means helping others. Also, when we talk about practicing sayta by leading a truthful life, this means in ALL things; our interactions with others, ourselves, etc. We must try to practice honesty as much as we can as often as we can. Live your truth and make sure it uplifts and doesn't harm and that includes the "truths" we tell ourselves about ourselves. Remember be kind to yourself and others and live in truthfulness!!
3rd Yama: Asteya
Wow. I'm finally getting around to blogging about Asteya. Truthfully I've been putting this on the back-burner because I've been so busy with other things. So here we are in our 3rd Yama of the first limb of yoga. Asteya is the practice of non-stealing. So in retrospect, I've been stealing time from this project by putting other stuff over it. So just like ahimsa has a spectrum, obviously asteya has a spectrum as well. At the very basic level of non-stealing, we probably think about not stealing physically from others. And one of the highest forms of asteya would be not stealing from animals by not eating animals or wearing animals. Of course that's the farthest extreme to me but it's very real and so true. There are many more avenues we can go down when we talk about non-stealing. Some things that can be stolen are time, ideas, moments, energy, etc. We are not practicing asteya if we steal others time or even time from ourselves. It shows we do not value others time when we're in the presence of others but we're constantly thinking about the next moment, the next day, on our electronic devices, or thinking about what we're going to say back to that person. Anything stealing your attention from that present moment is not practicing asteya. In this specific situation we are stealing time from the present moment by not really listening or being fully present in that moment. We can also steal time from ourselves when we don't give ourselves time for self-care and healing. When we don't take the necessary time to properly heal broken relationships or past wounds, those stains will eventually creep into our lives and manifest as negative behaviors or bad habits which will in turn steal the moment or the time or situation that we're in. So it's important that we value our time and others by respecting it and always being fully present. Another form of stealing would be stealing energy from others. We must be mindful in what we take from others. If we take, take, take from others but never give, we are stealing from that person's energy bank and it will most likely drain them. We must find a balance in how much we give and how much we take from others. We don't want to constantly drain someones energy with negativity, complaints, worries, etc. This is not to say you should never get to vent to your closest friends and families but it's all about the balance and ensuring you aren't overbearing and stealing more of their energy than needed. That goes the same for ourselves. We sometimes are surrounded by others who steal our energy through these habits. So don't be an energy stealer or surround yourself with energy stealers. Another form of stealing would be stealing others thoughts or ideas and presenting them as your own. Of course, we are influenced by others and we borrow information from various sources but it's important that we cite or credit those sources and never claim it as our own. For instance, with this information I'm sharing with you, I obviously didn't make this up. This is information from different sources that I've learned about and interpreted through my eyes and presented in a way that makes sense to me and based on my own personal experience in the mix. The information about yoga is out there freely for others to learn about. I'm only a source that's presenting the information to the people in my circle of a world. So always give credit where due when possible. The information I've been learning all this information from is the Yoga Teacher Manual used by the Floating Yoga School and numerous YouTube resources where I've dived deeper into the Yamas. My personal experience practicing asteya or moments of not practicing asteya is I try to be fully present when I'm around my significant other or my friends or family by not being hooked to my phone. I realize how much time social media can steal from us. I practice asteya by practicing self-care and self-reflection so that I can be healed, present, and prepared for the other areas of my life. I practice being present and aware in most situations (not all because of course I'm human and I'm not perfect) but I'm very intentional about being present in the moment. I definitely don't practice asteya all the time when I'm driving on the road. So this is the basis of what asteya is about. So be present, be mindful, don't steal others time, ideas, present moments, and just practice valuing others, yourself, and the world because if you value these things, you naturally don't want to take or steal from them.
4th Yama: Brahmacharya
Okay. So our next Yama that we are going to touch on is Brahmacharya. *sighs and giggles* I'm starting this blog off this time with my initial thoughts PRIOR to me diving into Brahmacharya because my initial thoughts or feelings were a feeling of conflict and panic. I'll tell you what Brahmacharya is surface level; it is basically self-control but the word that I've seen paired with this self-control is celibacy. So my initial reactions into exploring Brahmacharya when I saw the word celibacy paired with it were apprehensiveness and nervousness... like "oh shit is that what Brahmacharya is about?" Lol! It was a true introspective moment for me. And I wasn't apprehensive because of the conversation of sex because I've grown over the years to be more comfortable with my sexual expression. I believe it had me on edge because I don't practice celibacy personally. Now I'm sure that is not all that Brahmacharya is about but I just feel like I'm guiding people or preaching a lifestyle that I don't necessarily prescribe to. But that doesn't mean it's wrong, it just means I need to dive into this Yama with an open mind to receive knowledge and insight so that I might come out with a new perspective. I'm sharing my initial reactions with you all for one because this is an outlet for me to express myself, two the name of my site is "Ashley's Perspective"....so you're obviously seeing my perspective first-hand, and three I think it's important for people to see that we can at first glance have one reaction and perception of something but with time, knowledge, and experience...that initial perception can change. So I wanted you guys to see that. So I will see you all back here soon with my groomed thoughts.
Hello friends, I am back after having the proper time and exploration into Brahmacharya and honestly, it's much more clearer for me now and I understand it. I originally did an initial thoughts piece on Brahmacharya once I heard it's relative connection with celibacy. Based on my findings, understandings, and interpretations, Brahmacharya is this idea that our sole focus or energy and devotion is on God or a higher power, if you will. Its idea is that when we practice Brahmacharya and our sole energy is directed towards God, these earthly impulses and desires we have, such as sexual impulses, will fall to the wayside. This doesn't only go for our physical or sexual impulses though. This also refers to our mind as well.
It's more-so about the practice of restraint. When we're practicing Brahmacharya our sole purpose is to focus on purifying and clearing the mind and body of any outside earthly stimuli so that we can give our devoted attention to more important things such as building our relationship with God or higher power.
Conserve Your Energy
We spend so much time directing our energy towards what can become these obsessions in our world and completely entrap our mind, that when we direct that same amount of energy towards purification of the mind and body, it gives us more energy to expend towards the moral and ethical parts of life that keep our souls clean and pure. So no practicing celibacy doesn't HAVE to be a lifelong practice, but it can be something done intermittently throughout our lives. It's a great opportunity to turn inward and evaluate how much energy we exert physically, mentally, and emotionally in our everyday lives. We should ask ourselves, "Am I exerting too much energy to any one of these areas?", "Do I have something that's pulling on my energy strings that I can change or adjust?" We should be in the business of conserving our energy versus exerting it on numerous takings which can pull us away from directing that energy towards connecting with God.
Moderation is also a word that comes up when discussing the practice of Brahmacharya. Moderation is a word we can apply to almost everything in our life. Too much of anything isn't good for you. That goes for our diet, our emotional energy, physical energy, or our mental energy. Our body is our temple so we must be the "captains of our ship" a.k.a our body and control how much energy we expend on our physical or sexual energy. So when we're practicing Brahmacharya, we can think of it like respecting our temple and its sacredness and not exerting or giving all of our physical or sexual energy and that special experience to any and everyone. Be selfish with your body, limiting, and be very selective.
Denial for the Pursuit of Gain
Another thing that I heard that stuck with me while watching a video on Brahmacharya was that sometimes we have to deny ourselves of the simple things and simple pleasures in life in order to create something worthwhile. For example, our relationships, a degree we may be obtaining, a business we may be opening, etc. That was so powerful to me! We have all denied ourselves of certain pleasures at some point of another in order to obtain or create something worthwhile. In other words, we have all SACRIFICED!
Reframe Your Mind
When practicing Brahmacharya, it's simply a matter of reframing the mind to practice things in moderation in our life and to be mindful where we are exerting our energy so that we can conserve more of that energy to direct towards connecting with God or higher power so that we can live in the light and as pure as possible. Purity in every aspect, not just sexually. So go on and start practicing Brahmacharya today and I challenge you to deny yourself of ONE major thing that consumes a lot of your energy so that you can redirect that energy towards connecting with God on a personal level.
5th Yama: Aparigraha
Okay ya'll! We are moving into our fifth and final Yama, which is the first limb of yoga. Our fifth yama is aparigraha. Aparigraha is the simple concept of non-greed, non-hoarding, or non-excess. So when we think of practicing aparigraha, we must think, well what is the opposite action of not hoarding things or not being greedy or having excess items? The practice of aparigraha is living a minimalist lifestyle. A lifestyle of simplicity and limiting our use of resources. So taking only what we need.
Giving without Expectations
The other part of practicing aparigraha would be generosity. So when we start to evaluate the items in our life and start to discard the things we don't need, the idea is to give those items to others in need. So practicing the fifth yama is really learning the practice of letting go freely of things that don't serve us. This can be physical things, certain emotions, or ideas we have. When we talk about generosity, it is the act of giving with no expectations in return. Giving to just give with no strings attached. We shouldn't give or do good things in hopes of accumulating favors, physical items, or anything like that in return. It really is about just being a kind human soul for the pure satisfaction of having helped someone and it just being the right thing to do. One quote I heard when researching and looking into aparigraha was "a faithful heart is able to give without need of guarantee of any particular result because it comes straight from the heart. Pure and unconditional giving comes when your cup is filled completely from the inside." -Kino MacGregor, Author and Yoga Teacher.
Another part of aparigraha is not coveting our neighbors. So we must rid our mind and eliminate the thoughts and feelings of needing more or looking to our neighbors wanting what they have. So how can we practice aparigraha? Well one must evaluate the cost-response ratio of certain items or ideas or emotions. Bare with me here lol. I hope this all comes together nicely. Sometimes when I say things or have these elaborate thought processes in my mind, they don't always transfer over well expressively for me. :) So, when we're going through the process of shedding baggage or getting rid of excessive weight of physical, emotional, or mental ideas, we should ask ourselves questions such as these: Does the cost of this transaction (interaction between me and this individual or this concept or idea or emotion or physical item), outweigh or enhance my life, my peace of mind, my time and energy, or just my overall experience of life? What is it bringing to my life? How does it make me feel? How much physical energy is being put towards it? If the cost-response ratio weighs you down or creates any negative effects in your life then one must let it go because at this point it isn't enhancing or improving your life.
We need to become aware of how much clothes we actually wear and need, our daily use of certain items or resources; did I buy that appliance for the sake of just buying it or do I ACTUALLY use it or is it just excess in my life? Practicing aparigraha is evaluating what we TRULY need versus what we WANT and being generous with anything else that isn't serving us. I personally wasn't practicing aparigraha for 4 years of my 7 years of living in Florida. I was CHOOSING to live excessively when it's not what I needed. I was choosing to live in a two bedroom apartment when it was only me. I had even lived in a 3 bedroom house for 2 of those years but there were legitimate reasons or more legitimate reasons for that but even then I could've stuck with the two bedroom then. It wasn't necessary, it required more upkeep, and it was an unnecessary use of furniture that was just sitting and not being utilized. Of course, there were good intentions of why I wanted the two bedrooms with living out of state from family, but there were better ways to work that. Now now, I know some of you are probably thinking is it that serious to evaluate my living space? Well when I think about it, for me, yes. I was definitely expending more energy to cool or heat this excessive space that I probably only spent a small amount of time in. And this excessive space just allowed more space for me to hold onto items that I was barely wearing or using. It just wasn't practical for me financially or physically honestly. I now currently live in a one bedroom which at first I was hesitant about getting, but let me tell you how much I LOVE the space I'm in. It's the perfect size. It's just what I needed and I have space for everything I need: space to sleep (in a king size bed I might add....one might argue this is excessive lol but it's truly a necessity FOR ME), space to cook and eat, place to write and work on school and personal projects, and space to practice yoga. There's literally so much we can do with the small spaces we have. I realized all I really needed was a space that at least gave me the outside light I desire and a glimpse of nature and everything else can be adjusted. Another way I practice aparigraha is I started this practice a couple of years ago where at the start of a new year I do a purge. I do this by throughout the entire year I turn hangers a different way than it started after I've worn an item. If that item on a hanger never gets turned around during that year, that means I need to get rid of it. This way I'm not holding onto excessive clothing that I'm not even wearing. I usually give the clothes away after that. As I sit and type this, I actually have a bag of clothing items sitting in my hall that's been on my running to do list for quite a while to go drop off. I actually should go put them in my car now while it's on my mind. :)
Surrender Materialistic Views
We must open our eyes and LET GO of the unnecessary things and the idea that bigger or more is better. It's a matter of re-framing and rewiring our mind to think differently. It all begins with the mind. If we surrender the idea of "I want it, gotta have it, so I'm going to get it" mentality, we free ourselves from the hold these worldly possessions have over us and then we can appreciate life in a whole new light. So I leave you with this: what can you let go of physically, emotionally, and/or mentally, to start practicing aparigraha? Also, thank you for journeying through the first limb of yoga and diving into the 5 Yamas with me! I hope that the last few weeks or however long you've journeyed with me has been somewhat transformative, life-changing, or just informative for you! Know that every one of you are beautiful, magnificent, and AMAZING human beings and I pray that your days are filled with love, wisdom, opportunities, and prosperity!! Namaste!