Yoga with Melissa 224, The 5 Yamas, 1 hr Yoga Class, 8 Limbs of Yoga Series

by Melissa West on

A Different Kind of Alignment Beyond the Physical

NamasteYoga224A Different Kind of Alignment Beyond the Physical.

2:28 “By the practice of the limbs of yoga, the impurities dwindle away and there dawns the light of wisdom leading to discriminative discernment.” The practice of the eight limbs of yoga will not bring you anything new, they will simply remove what is unnecessary and as the impurities dwindle, the wisdom that already resides within you will emerge.“

We will begin our series on the Eight Limbs of Yoga (yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi) with the yamas. Yamas are translated literally as restraints and yet, they aren’t really a do and don’t list, but rather better understood as a way to prepare ourselves for action. If we allow the principles of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence and non-greed to guide us in their intent, nature and spirit in our thoughts, words and actions, then we can see how they can bring clarity and focus to us in all situations.

Ahimsa is the mother of all the yamas and is never to be violated. It applies to all living beings (humans, animals, plants, all living beings). Nonviolence refers to refraining from harm in thought as well as word and action. Reverend Carrera Jaganath reminds us that avoiding harm while harboring spiteful thoughts does not satisfy the spirit of ahimsa. Intention is incredibly important when it comes to loving kindness. A yogi’s actions should bring no harm to anybody, including themselves, and be a benefit to somebody. Even if this was the only practice of yoga that you took up for the rest of your life, this practice would be enough.

The second yama is truthfulness. We need to be truthful in our thoughts, words and actions. In other words our words, actions, and thoughts, should all be in integrity with each other. If not, we are out of alignment and this causes us great distress. Secondly, truthfulness needs to be measured against ahimsa. For example, if truthful words are going to cause harm, then they should not be spoken. It is most important to check in and see if our thoughts, words or actions are bringing harm or harmony, no matter how truthful they are. Again, the intention behind the truth is the most important.

The third yama is aesteya or non-stealing. Most of us probably believe that we don’t steal at all. However there are many forms of stealing that happen at a much more subtle level. Often we steal other people’s time and experience without an equal energy exchange. Sometimes we steal people’s ideas without giving them credit. Sometimes we steal the conversation by interrupting our friends or family.

The fourth yama is continence or brahmacharya. This refers to the nonproductive expenditures of energy. Everything we do causes an outflow of energy. It is up to us to tune into whether that action drains us or gives us energy. Brahmacharya translates as expending our energy on activities that are conducive to Self-Realization. Certain activities such as staying up too late, overworking, taking in toxins, and talking too much expend a lot of energy that could be directed towards your goal of Self-Realization.

The final and fifth yama is aparigraha. This yama often gets translated as non-possessiveness or non-hoarding. It means to take only what you need. When reflecting on this yama, questions such as do I need a brand new car or would a used car serve the same purpose in my life? Or do I need a car at all? Do I need brand new furniture to hold my clothing or would a used dresser do the same trick? I need to feed my body which is the temple to my soul, what kind of food to I choose to fuel my body with? Do I choose to fuel my body with a few nutrient dense organic foods or do I binge on nutrient deficient junk food that tastes good in the moment?

With aparigraha we can even question our motives spiritually as spiritual materialism can be a thing as some people flit from one retreat, workshop, yoga studio to another looking for enlightenment externally rather than developing a strong internal practice. Material objects can be incredibly important to helping us accomplish our goals in life, however it is important that these objects don’t end up owning or controlling us. Our focus should not be on these external acquisitions, but rather on aligning ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually with our inward spiritual journey in a way that allows us to create positive change in the universe. Do the physical objects I am acquiring in my life allow me to do that? If so, great. 🙂 If not, let them go.

The yoga sutras place a greater emphasis on the yamas than the niyamas because they apply to everyone, whether you are a yogi or not. These guiding principles are said to transcend all time, geography and walks of life. For me the biggest takeaway from all of this is that through yoga we have the potential to live our entire lives in alignment. In the western practice of yoga there is so much discussion of physical alignment. Aligning our physical bodies is only one aspect of our embodied experience. By delving into the first limb of the eight limbs of yoga, the yamas, we see how we can bring the other layers of our bodies into alignment as well. We see how we can bring our thoughts, words, actions, emotion, energy, and spirit into alignment through ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, and aparigraha.

Resource: Inside the Yoga Sutras by Reverend Carrera Jaganath

Props Needed: Yoga Strap, Yoga Block

Yoga Postures/Asanas: Supta Padangusthasana/Hand to Big Toe Pose, Vasiṣṭhāsana/Side-plank, Parighasana /Gate Pose, Adho Mukha Svanasana/Down Dog with leg Extension, Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana/King Pigeon Pose, Parsvottanasana/standing forward folding triangle/pyramid, Trikonasana/Triangle Pose, Parivṛtta Trikonasana/Revolved Triangle, Upavistha Konasana/Wide Legged Seated Forward Fold, Anjali Mudra, Savasana/Corpse Pose

Yoga with Melissa 224 Photos of Yoga Poses


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