Foundations Of Yoga Part 1 Yama And Niyama

Foundations Of Yoga Part 1 Yama And Niyama



Prerequisites for yoga

"Knowledge (Jnana) does not come about from practice of​ yoga methods alone. Perfection in​ knowledge is​ in​ fact only for those who begin by practice of​ virtue (dharma). Yet,​ without yoga as​ a​ means,​ knowledge does not come about. the​ practice of​ yogic methods is​ not the​ means by itself,​ yet it​ is​ only out of​ that practice of​ yoga that the​ perfection in​ knowledge comes about. And so it​ is​ said by the​ teachers: 'Yoga is​ for the​ purpose of​ knowledge of​ truth'" Thus wrote Shankara.

All things rest upon something else-that is,​ all things are supported by another. This is​ because a​ foundation is​ needed for anything to​ exist. Being Himself the​ Ultimate Support of​ all things,​ God alone is​ free from this necessity. Yoga,​ then,​ also requires support. as​ Trevor Leggett says in​ his introduction to​ Shankara's commentary on​ the​ Yoga Sutras: "This is​ yoga presented for the​ man of​ the​ world,​ who must first clear,​ and then steady,​ his mind against the​ fury of​ illusory passions,​ and free his life from entanglements." Patanjali very carefully and fully outlines the​ elements of​ the​ support needed by the​ aspirant,​ giving invaluable information on​ how to​ guarantee success in​ yoga.

The first Yoga Sutra says: "Now the​ exposition of​ yoga,​" implying that there must be something leading up to​ yoga in​ the​ form of​ necessary developments of​ consciousness and personality. These prerequisites may be thought of​ as​ the​ Pillars of​ Yoga,​ and are known as​ Yama and Niyama.

Yama and Niyama

Yama and Niyama are often called "the Ten Commandments of​ Yoga." Each one of​ these Five Don'ts (Yama) and Five Do's (Niyama) is​ a​ supporting,​ liberating Pillar of​ Yoga. Yama means self-restraint in​ the​ sense of​ self-mastery,​ or​ abstention,​ and consists of​ five elements. Niyama means observances,​ of​ which there are also five. Here is​ the​ complete list of​ these ten Pillars as​ given in​ Yoga Sutras 2:30,​32:

1) Ahimsa: non-violence,​ non-injury,​ harmlessness

2) Satya: truthfulness,​ honesty

3) Asteya: non-stealing,​ honesty,​ non-misappropriativeness

4) Brahmacharya: sexual continence in​ thought,​ word and deed as​ well as​ control of​ all the​ senses

5) Aparigraha: non-possessiveness,​ non-greed,​ non-selfishness,​ non-acquisitiveness

6) Shaucha: purity,​ cleanliness

7) Santosha: contentment,​ peacefulness

8) Tapas: austerity,​ practical (i.e.,​ result-producing) spiritual discipline

9) Swadhyaya: introspective self-study,​ spiritual study

10) Ishwarapranidhana: offering of​ one's life to​ God

All of​ these deal with the​ innate powers of​ the​ human being-or rather with the​ abstinence and observance that will develop and release those powers to​ be used toward our spiritual perfection,​ to​ our self-realization and liberation.

These ten restraints (yama) and observances (niyama) are not optional for the​ aspiring yogi-or for the​ most advanced yogi,​ either. Shankara states quite forcefully that "following yama and niyama is​ the​ basic qualification to​ practice yoga." Mere desire and aspiration for the​ goal of​ yoga is​ not enough,​ so he continues: "The qualification is​ not simply that one wants to​ practice yoga,​ for the​ sacred text says: 'But he who has not first turned away from his wickedness,​ who is​ not tranquil and subdued,​ or​ whose mind is​ not at​ rest,​ he can never obtain the​ Self by knowledge.' (Katha Upanishad 1.2.24) And in​ the​ Atharva text: 'It is​ in​ those who have tapas [strong discipline] and brahmacharya [chastity] that truth is​ established.' (Prashna Upanishad 1:15)And in​ the​ Gita: 'Firm in​ their vow of​ brahmacharya.' (Bhagavad Gita 6:14) So yama and niyama are methods of​ yoga" in​ themselves and are not mere adjuncts or​ aids that can be optional.

But at​ the​ same time,​ the​ practice of​ yoga helps the​ aspiring yogi to​ follow the​ necessary ways of​ yama and niyama,​ so he should not be discouraged from taking up yoga right now,​ thinking that he should wait till he is​ "ready" or​ has "cleaned up his act" to​ practice yoga. No. He should determinedly embark on​ yama,​ niyama,​ and yoga simultaneously. Success will be his.




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