We’ve heard it before – Yoga is a journey. Trips and vacations renew and refresh us for the return to our daily lives. The Yoga journey is different; it is a commitment that begins with the pivotal moment we decide we want to integrate the philosophy, poses, and mindfulness into our lives every single day. Unlike cruises and holidays, the Yogic path guides and supports us throughout our lifespan. The Yoga lifestyle can fit into our day-to-day routine and accompany us on every trip. It is that missing piece of ourselves we feel deep within our hearts but are not sure where to find it. The first step on the path? Becoming acquainted with the teachings of the Yamas (Restraints) and Niyamas (Observances), the first two limbs of the 8-limbed path, provides a logical start. The Yamas offer principles for right living that when followed help restrain us from engaging in foolish, selfish behavior. Instead, they support acts of kindness and compassion toward our fellow humans and all life on earth. Observing the first Yama, Ahimsa, (Non-violence) encourages us to treat others as we would like to be treated and share the bounty of our lives with our neighbors without harming them or ourselves. The second Yama, Satya, (Truthfulness) teaches us that truthfulness needs to be tempered with thoughtfulness regarding how and when it is used. In this way, non-violence and truthfulness share a deep connection. As we walk along our Yoga path, practicing the third Yama, Astaya, (Non-stealing) helps us look inward for what we desire rather than outside ourselves. Dedicating energy to learning more about who we are and how we can better live the life we desire can lead us to discover the most fascinating person we will ever meet – ourselves.
The fourth Yama, Brahmacharya, (Non-excess) is often translated as “walking with God” and is associated with the word abstinence. However, if we research the definition of abstinence, we find it also means moderation, self-discipline, and self-restraint. Anyone who has been on a diet or followed an exercise regimen is familiar with these three self-control techniques. Many of us know the feeling of running out of space for our belongings. Some may even pay for a storage unit to house possessions that won’t fit in their homes. Perhaps this explains the origin of the phrase “owning too much stuff means your stuff owns you.” Author Deborah Adele suggests we “leave excess behind and live within the limits of enough.” She also brings attention to our tendency to overdo how much we work, eat, and entertain ourselves. For those who are used to living to excess, replacing old habits like eating a whole carton of ice cream while binge-watching a favorite television program after working long hours and tending to everyone’s needs but one’s own, there will be an adjustment period from overindulgence to non-excess. What an opportune time to pull back from the behaviors that weigh us down and accentuate those that provide support! Where does Brahmacharya lead us? Practicing non-excess can guide us to an energetic, fulfilling lifestyle of balance and freedom from overload.
*In Yogic thought, there is a moment in time when we reach the perfect limit of what we are engaged in. It is this moment of “just enough” that we need to recognize.
~ Deborah Adele, “The Yamas and Niyamas, Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice”
**The fifth and last Yama, Aparigraha (non-possessiveness) and the five Niyamas will be explored in future posts.