Yoga Philosophy As A Foundation for Harmonic Living
While my lifestyle coaching philosophy is not exclusively based on yoga philosophy, it is deeply rooted in it. The ancients were very thoughtful about life.... the way they viewed it, the way they interacted with it, and with the realization that conscious choices brought peace, empowerment, and harmony.
The Niyamas & Yamas (dos & don'ts of yoga) are just one small aspect of yoga philosophy that encourages conscious, empowered & harmonic living. It is important to remember that much of yoga philosophy is based on "karma." (I'm not talking about the western view that karma means retribution.) The word karma, literally means, action. We know scientifically that for every action there is a reaction. And so... our actions have consequences — and — we build karma. Yoga encourages us to consider our karma — not that of others — as we move through our lives and make choices that align with our inner guide. Thus, many choices about "right" and "wrong" end up being subjective rather than objective. The questions to ask around which choice is right for you, is:
What actions align with your values?
What actions will produce the reactions you want to bring in to your world?
The Yamas (Restraints)
Ahimsa* ~ non-harming
Satya ~ truth telling
Asteya ~ non-stealing (belongings - but also remembering fair energy exchange is vital for healthy interactions & relationships)
Aparigraha - non-grasping / non-clinging / non-possessiveness / (in the flow)
Brahmacharya ~ "maintenance of vitality" (Removed from the traditional context of what it meant to be a yoga practitioner, this concept is complex. Literally Brahmacharya means "vehicle of the divine creative force of life.)" We are infused with divine spirit and so we are encouraged to manage and channel our energy in positive ways. I recently found the definition of Brahmacharya as "maintenance of vitality" in a Yoga Journal article by Kate Siber. This definition really resonates with me.
The Niyamas (Observances)
Tapas - dedication
Saucha - purity
Santosha - contentment
Svadyaya - (S)elf-awareness**
Ishvara Pranidhana - remembrance & respect for divine nature of life**
* In yoga philosophy, karma accumulates based on our personal "dharma" (or life path/truth). It is different for everyone but our individual choices are always affecting our collective whole. We are all coming from different backgrounds, with different perspectives and lenses, with different talents & preferences, and with different purposes. All entwined and all unique. We are encouraged to be sensitive to our own needs and of the impact of the whole that we are together. Different organizations of yoga see ahimsa differently. Currently it is acutely tied to veganism/vegetarianism. On one hand it is harmful to kill and/or use an animal for what it can give to us. On the other hand, it is a natural cycle of life for animals to eat each other to survive on this planet. Ultimately the choice to eat animals or not is a personal one and our own karma should be considered. Because there are very little choices in this world that are really free from pros and cons, my approach is to consider, what actions will cause the least harm, pain, and suffering for my self and my world. For me lately this idea of least harm comes in to play when deciding whether to speak up about politics or not;-) I know my words aren't always "pleasant." They are true though; and because I feel so compelled to say something about backward slide of humanity I see happening around me, I feel it is the higher action to say something that may feel uncomfortable than it would be to allow that destructive behavior to go on un-noticed and un-restrained. As we see here in the Yamas and Niyamas, there is a place for restraint and observance.
**Yoga IS a spiritual tradition and practice. The whole point of the practice is to acknowledge our physical and spiritual nature and keep them in balance in our lives. The beautiful thing about the spiritual aspect of yoga is that it can work with all religions. There are many different types of yoga philosophy that span the spectrum from naturalist, to mono-theistic, to poly-theistic, to atheist, to universalist. However you honor "the spirit of life," whether it be God, or life-force, or pure chemical energy, you are encouraged to remember that you are more than meat and bones. You have spirit and yoga asks us to activate that spirit and to keep our bodies & minds clear & healthy so that we can live conscious & empowered lives for the benefit of ourselves & for each other.