First of all, we have to understand what yoga is. Here in the west, yoga is put into a category like gymnastics. Yoga is not just physical exercise. I was fortunate when I started doing yoga in my College years. I went to classes from a teacher who already shared little more than just the asanas. He already used Sanskrit names for the asanas. We always did some meditation in the end, and he always shared some parts of yoga philosophy as well. So I was fortunate with that. But I know that in many Yoga classes you go to in Europe, nothing is mentioned about the spiritual path, which it is.
Spiritual Yoga – What is Yoga?
So this is why I want to do this with you today and explain a little what yoga is. So yoga is not just the physical postures. Yoga is a whole science to raise your consciousness and slowly step up to the next level of awareness until enlightenment. But that’s on the top end. It is about physical posture, which we do to keep our body flexible, sit long in meditation, and keep the body healthy. We need a healthy body so we can go on the spiritual path. If we have aches and pain, we cannot focus on our spiritual growth because then we will be stuck in the body. So we have to take care of our bodies as well. And with the physical posture, we keep our body healthy as well. But yoga is more than just that.
Eight limbs of Yoga
I talked about this just because it is a spiritual path. You can break it down into different steps. Traditionally these are called the eight limbs of yoga. Patanjali divided it into that. It is like a lather, and it comes step by step. The base of the eight limbs is Yamas and Niyamas. These are some rules for you to keep in mind. I would say they teach you how to conduct yourself, be with others, and keep yourself according to some morals.
So let’s look into Yamas and Niyamas more closely because this is already a big step to making your yoga practice more spiritual. Yoga is not something you do for 1 hour a day. It is something you do the whole day long. Okay, you take it off the mat now. So the huge thing is to follow the Yamas and Niyamas.
Yamas – The basics of Spiritual Yoga
Now let’s start with the Yamas. The Yamas are the rules which concern our relationship with the outer world. We have five Yamas.
Ahimsa is non-harming; this means, for example, that we don’t scream at anyone. We don’t beat anyone up. And a huge part of this is also the Yogi diet. We don’t eat anything where an animal was harmed. Of course, it includes meat because killing is harming. But that also includes milk in the industrialized world because milk cows are not kept very nicely. Eggs as well – you look into a big chicken farm and you will know what I’m talking about. This has nothing to do with Ahimsa, with non-harming. So non-harming is the first part.
The second part of Yamas is Satya, or truthfulness, which means you speak the truth.
The next one is Asteya means, which means non-stealing. Not stealing is not just about going to a shop and stealing something. Also, if I want to borrow a pen from my friend, and I’m not asking because I know she might not like it that much, but I still take it without asking, it is considered stealing. When I want something from some other person, I ask for permission.
The next of the Yamas is Brahmacharya, or celibacy. That is mostly a little misunderstood because it is not just about not having sex. It also means to household good with your energies. So if you are married or have a partner, of course, you’re allowed to have sex. But it also means to have meaningful sex, to preserve your energies, to do it consciously. This is brahmacharya. So you don’t have to be celibate to follow Brahmacharya. But you have to be conscious about with whom you’re sharing intimacy and on which level. And is this good for me or not?
And the fifth of the Yamas is the non-greed or also not hoarding. That means you don’t try to accumulate as many things as possible. When you follow these things, you are already on the spiritual path. You have already brought yoga into your daily life.
Niyamas – Go even deeper into your Spiritual Yoga
Now let’s also look into the Niyamas. These are the things that you can do with yourself. Personal rules, personal morals. We have five Niyamas.
The first Nirama is saucha. Saucha means cleanliness. That means you should be clean. It’s not just about taking a shower. It also means you have pure thoughts. You do; you do it cleanly. You keep your surroundings clean and tidy.
The next one is Santosha, or contentment. This means that you are content with what you have. For example, you should not get attached to your things or the people you love. You let them free. And also, if something breaks or if you lose something, it is okay for you because you’re not attached to these things.
The next Niyama is tapa or tapas. It is that you devote yourself. It’s discipline. It means, for example, that you get up in the morning at five and practice yoga, although you would rather stay in a warm bed. This is a very easy tapa to do for us daily. Tapa shows that you have discipline. If you go to a spiritual teacher, he will always put you through some challenges to see how committed you are and how much devotion you have. So they will let you do some extreme things. So you prove your worthiness. You prove that you’re really into it, that you are devoted.
Study of self
The next one is Svadhyaya, which is the study of Holy books and the study of self. So that means that you read the Holy books. That can be any Holy book you feel attracted to. And it’s not just about reading the book; it is also about self-reflection while reading it. Okay, how can I implement these things which are said there? Traditionally it was meant to read the Vedas, for example. You can find out on which level you are in your spiritual path. So it’s always about self-reflection. Okay, where am I? What is the next step for me to take?
Surrender to a higher being
And the fifth Niyama is Ishwa Pranidhana. That means surrender to a higher being, surrender to God. Many people have difficulties because they don’t believe in Hinduism. But yoga is not about Hinduism. Hinduism is a label that the Britishers put onto this belief structure they found in India. Also, the name “India” they put on it, although it was never called India. So it is not about worshiping some Hindu gods. It is about you finding the connection to the higher soul, the supreme soul, and whatever you consider Godly. It is easier to do that if you have some idol. Because humans work with images, if we see something, we believe it. So that’s why people started having idols in their homes. Because it’s easier to sit in front of a statue and pray than sit somewhere and try to feel the divine energy, it’s like you bring the divine qualities into a statue; it doesn’t mean that you pray to the statue, to the wood, what it is made out of. No, you pray to the energy of God. So this is the last Niyama.
What is the next step?
Suppose you have implemented some of these Yamas and Niyamas into your daily life. In that case, you have already started your spiritual paths and made your yoga practice more spiritual. But there are other things you can do. For example, when you do yoga daily or several times a week, you should not just do asanas. You can also get into pranayama, but you should learn this in person from a teacher before so you don’t make any mistakes. Also, you can do meditation. However, meditation is already a very high limb of the eight limbs. So it’s a very high step already. It is a very difficult one. So you can do the action before concentration. That means you focus your mind on something. But there will be more videos where I talk more about engagement and meditation and how you can do this in your daily life.
I hope I have given you some idea of how you can make your yoga journey a little more spiritual. It is not just about this 1 hour you spend on the mat; it is about implementing these rules, these morals of rightful living, into your daily life. And then you see what has all changed in your life already. It’s the small things when we do these minor tweaks, these tiny changes; massive changes will happen. Massive transformations.
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