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.
On this blog we’ve considered the super-foods that best nourish the physical body. Then we moved on to looking at the subtle energy centres which nourish the whole being. Lets move now to the mental and ethical yogic guidelines.
Patanjali set down the EIGHT LIMBS OF YOGA. The first two are guides for living ethically, and they are known as YAMAS and NIYAMASA.
The first of the YAMAS – which are abstinences or ‘don’ts’ – is AHIMSA, non-violence. This Yama encourages us to be non-violent in every respect, in thought, word and deed. Most yogis are vegan or vegetarian because of this – the very first rule of yoga. To hurt any other creature would be wrong.Making the decision to become vegetarian lifts your energies to a higher vibration. Respect for other beings leads to a greater respect for life itself.
Now we come to the last of the wheels of energy. This seventh chakra is called SAHASRARA in Sanskrit. It means the thousand petalled lotus, its colour is violet (often white in classical texts) and some authorities say that it has no seed sound. Other authorities recommend using the sounds ‘So Ham’ to stimulate this wheel. So ham means ‘That I am’. It is the unconscious mantra that we repeat with each breath – so is the sound of the in-breath, and ham is the sound of the out-breath. So represents the cosmic consciousness , ham represents the individual consciousness.
The crown chakra connects us to a Higher Power, to Spirit World. It is all about our spirituality. In as much as we have stimulated and balanced our previous six chakras, then we are ready to open up to Sahasrara, which is located two inches above the crown of the head.
The prana that we gather through our connection with the Earth, with the Sun, with the food that we eat and the pure water that we drink, this prana is the fuel which runs the seven main chakras. In perfect health and well-being, the wheels spin freely and constantly, giving out energy and taking in energy.
The sixth wheel of energy is often referred to as the third eye. The brow chakra is known as AJNA in Sanskrit, which means to perceive. Its all about your intuition – think about that word for a moment. In…..tuition….(teaching from within.) This wheel of energy puts you in touch with your inner guru, or teacher. It is connected to the element of light, its colour is indigo (royal purple), and its seed sound is OM. Try turning your eyes upwards to the position of the third eye when you meditate.
Foods that might awaken the brow chakra include black grapes, blackcurrants, blackberries and black olives. However, listening to your intuition and working with awareness are the most effective ways to proceed. It’s rather lovely to create a PUJA, which is a ceremony or sacred place. Choose a peaceful corner in your home, and on a table or shelf place items which resonate with you at the time. If you wish to stimulate the brow chakra, have perhaps an indigo candle, some beautiful indigo tulips, a picture or photograph of a place where you have received insights and realisations.
Always source your food organically, and feel gratitude as you eat.