The second Niyama, or ‘do’, is SANTOSHA. Now, isn’t that a gorgeous word? I know of a very beautiful boat called Santosha! It means contentment. If we’re managing to stick to the five ‘don’ts’, we’ll be well on our way to contentment. How wonderful to be given this as a rule for living! Contentment isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity! It isn’t something that we aim for, way away in the future. We need to be content right now, right here. Yoga helps us to find that level place of contentment, and to live in that place. Are you content today?
The second of the EIGHT LIMBS of YOGA is the NIYAMAS. These are the observances, the things that we should do to live a fulfilling, ethical life. The first of the Niyamas is SAUCHA, cleanliness. In the western world, we are very clean on the outside i.e showering, washing our clothes, hoovering our floors, but generally we are less concerned with the inside. Practises such as ‘neti’ or nasal cleansing are used by yogis. Tongue scraping is another favourite, and does really prevent some colds and infections. Eating nutritious, carefully chosen foods keeps our digestive tract clean and healthy. Many people nowadays are in to detox, which is helpful, focussing the mind an keeping the insides clean. Meditation is a powerful tool, used by all yogis, to clear and cleanse the mind. Yoga practice itself cleanses the energy channels and the aura.
There’s a lot to think about with this Niyama. We have been noticing the increase in rubbish thrown out of cars on the motorway. This is irresponsible and dirty. It goes against the Niyama, saucha. It is just as important to keep our neighbourhoods, our countries, our planet clean, as it is to keep ourselves clean! Dirt clutters the mind…
There’s more to life than just getting through each day. Throughout the ages man has designed rules, boundaries and guidelines to help him live a good and fulfilling life. In yoga, we study the ‘Eight Limbs’ which were set down by an Indian sage known as Patanjali in about 300 years B.C. We’ve been looking at the first of these ‘limbs’, the YAMAS or don’ts. They are, in summary:
Non-violence; non-lying; non-stealing; non-misuse of energy; and non-greed.
If children were brought up to REALLY understand these five ‘don’ts’, the world would change forever. If adults lived by these five ‘don’ts’, then children would really understand them!
The last of the YAMAS, the yoga ‘don’ts’ is APARIGRAHA, non-greed. Gandhi said,’There is enough for every man’s need, but not enough for every man’s greed’. We’ve seen so many changes in recent years. We’ve seen the financial institutions tumbling, and we’ve seen the richest nations in continuing financial trouble. Our planet cannot continue to meet our escalating demands. We must, in order to survive, address this huge subject of greed. All change begins with ourselves. To quote Gandhi again, the great soul said, ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world.’
Practising non-greed means buying enough food to feed the family, but not so much that it is wasted and thrown away. Practising non-greed means up-cycling. Practising non-greed means giving to charity, sharing your wealth. Examine this rule in your meditations. See where you can make healthy changes for you, for your family, for your community and for our world.
Patanjali’s Eight Limbs provide us with a life-time’s study, but also with guide-lines with which we can check in and test if we’re still ‘on track’.
We’ve had a little look at non-violence, non-lying, non-stealing and the fourth of the YAMAS is non-misuse of energy. It is known as BRAMACHARYA in Sanskrit, and it refers to loyalty and fidelity. In fact, it is not wasting or misusing our physical, mental, emotional and sexual energy by being violent, lying, stealing or by being greedy.
Non-stealing is the concern of the third YAMA, or don’t. You might think, ‘Well, that’s easy. I don’t steal handbags, cars or televisions, ‘ but it’s deeper. It’s not just about stealing another’s possessions, but also stealing another’s time or peace of mind. We steal someone else’s time when we are unpunctual, or by being careless with paperwork. We steal another person’s good name when we gossip about them. We can even be guilty of stealing someone else’s good mood! When you’re feeling grumpy, how easy is it to let that spread!
We can be stealing opportunities from ourselves, too. If we hold back, out of shyness or a lack of confidence, we steal chances for growth from ourselves. Give it some thought. It is an interesting ethic for life…
Mahatma Gandhi devoted his entire life to the first of the YAMAS, or don’ts (the Eight Limbs of Yoga were sey down by Patanjali.) The first one is Ahimsa, non-violence, and the second one is SATYA, non-lying.
All the YAMAS are a challenge, and this is a big one. Look at how we are manipulated by the media, and the politicians; how statistics can be read in many different ways and how the spin-doctors ‘bend’ the truth. Satya encourages us to live with clarity, to come back to honesty and simple truthful values. This involves not lying to others, recognising when others are lying to us, and (most importantly,) not lying to ourselves.