This is part one of “Following the Eight-Limbed Path”, a series about Ashtanga yoga
What if we didn’t harm other beings, including animals, or ourselves? What if we were truthful to each other and to our own hearts? What if we did not take things that weren’t meant for us? What if we could control our senses and preserve our energy? And to top that, what if could get rid of things that don’t serve us anymore?
Treat others as you want to be treated
Would it make a difference? I believe it would. I strongly believe we would have a more loving a conscious society if we were aware of these observances. If we could stick to the truth, without hurting anyone, not possessing, stealing, or wasting our energy and doing our best in every situation, there would be less suffering.
These five different observances are called Yamas and form the first limb of the eight-limbed path. The first one Ahimsa is translated in to non-violence, Satya means truthfulness, Asteya is non-stealing, while Bramacharya is about sense control and saving our energy. The last one, Aparigraha is translated in to non-possessiveness.
Yoga, not just a physical practice
When I started practicing Ashtanga Yoga about four years ago, I had no clue about what it meant. Maybe someone mentioned that Ashtanga was translated to eight limbs, but I didn’t really take it in or pursue it further. It took me months of asana (physical) practice before I even got interested in knowing more. It was probably when I started to feel something different, when feelings and emotions came up to the surface and when the practice became more than something physical.
Four years later I do understand why this is important. The asana practice we do on our mats is just one of eight limbs. Practicing yoga is much more than stretching and bending our bodies, it is a 24-hour practice, everyday, for the rest of our lives. Doing an asana practice without the knowledge of Yamas (observances) and Niyamas (commitments) is like reading a book without paying attention to the content — you probably won’t really understand what it is about.
A helpful guide
I wouldn’t say that you have to practice the yamas, this is more something we should be aware of and take in to our daily lives. One small gesture of kindness can make a huge difference. By helping someone without expecting anything back, we encourage them to help others, and without even knowing it we create a chain of positivity. If we follow the yamas in our daily life, we wont get lost.
When I became more aware of these observances and added them to my everyday life I started to realize why I practice yoga. It is not about mastering asanas, it’s about getting to know myself better and to always be willing to improve. Not just for me, for all of us. We are all in this together.
Do better, and be better
So, feel free to join me in this pledge to a more loving and aware society, to a deeper understanding and respect for this planet and its inhabitants.
I pledge to do no harm to other beings, including animals, or myself. I pledge to be truthful to other people and to my heart. To not occupy things or emotions that wasn’t meant for me. I pledge to control my senses and preserve my energy. And, I pledge to get rid of things that don’t serve me anymore.
All we can do is our best, and that is enough.
Read part two of the series here
Written by Anastasia Konstadinidis