While many consider Yoga to be a form a physical exercise, it is also known to be an exercise in spiritual development. Most would agree that the true “goal” of Yoga is to provide the individual with the means to achieve inner peace and balance. To achieve these goals, students are encouraged to become familiar Yoga’s eight fold path. The eight fold path consists of eight disciplines; Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samhadi.
The first fold, Yama, advises students to engage with the world from a moral standpoint, and is actually broken down into five distinct elements. The first element, Ahimsa, teaches the student to respect the world around him. The second, Satya, teaches that one should be honest with themselves and with others. The third, Asteya, teaches not to steal from another. The fourth, Bramacharya, advises against overindulgence of any form. The fifth, Aparigraha, teaches the student to live a simple life that is not distracted by material things.
Niyama, or the second fold, is considered the path of self-restraint and consists of three distinct elements. Shaugh, the first element, teaches students to keep the body and mind clean and pure. Santosh, the second element, teaches the student to be happy and contented with the task at hand and to give an honest effort in all endeavors. Tapa, the third element, suggests that certain pleasures must be given up in order to attain one’s goals.
Asana is the third of the eight fold path, and it is concerned with physical training and building stamina. Asana is made up of 84 yoga poses, which are focused on developing strength, increasing health, and preparing for meditation. This stage is as much about physical conditioning, as it is mental or psychological discipline. Pranayama, the fourth fold, concerns controlled breathing. Proper breathing is important for mastering true relaxation and self-discipline. The proper way to breathe while practicing yoga is to breathe in, and breathe out while pausing in between.
Pratyahara is the fifth of the eight folds, and is concerned with the individual’s control of sensory stimulation. The intent is to induce a sense of inner peace and quiet, by tuning out external stimulation. Dharana is the sixth fold, and it is primarily concerned with focusing one’s concentration on meditation. When a meditative state has been attained the student is then on to the seventh step, Dhyana. The final step, Samhadi, is attained when all previous steps have been completed and the individual experiences a true oneness with all things. The student is, as of this point, in tune with the universal flow.
Knowledge (Jnana) does not come about from the practice of yoga 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. “Yoga is for the purpose of knowledge of truth,” said Shankara.
All things rest upon something else-that is, all things are supported by one 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 said 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 practitioner, giving invaluable information on how to assure 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 the ten Pillars as stated in the 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 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.
The practice of yoga assists the aspiring yogi to follow the yamas and niyamas, not be discouraged from practicing yoga in the present, believing you must wait until you are “ready” to begin yoga. One should should practice yama, niyama, and yoga simultaneously. Success will follow.
Most of us who study Yoga have been taught that an abundance of Prana (vital air or vital energy), can be found at the ocean, lakes, large open fields, and in the mountains. Although the air is different, this same energy can be found where people assemble for a positive reason. For example: when people assemble to meditate or pray.
You can feel it in your home, at a church, mosque, temple, shrine, ashram, seminar, martial arts hall, etc. This is when people bond in a mass for the common good. The energy can be used to help humanity and our little planet for the best.
You can project this energy outward by acts of kindness every moment of your life. This is not to say, you allow yourself to be abused. You can be kind to everyone who comes into your life, without becoming a “doormat.”
You have influence over a limited number of people who you see in a day. Why not make every contact a harmonious and positive experience?
Some examples would be:
Stop making foul gestures, becoming angry, and swearing when another driver on the road has irritated you.
Don't take advantage of respect with anyone.
Treat everyone as special – no matter what their economic status.
What is the mystery behind attracting positive energy?
To be honest, there isn't one, but I will give you the formula.
First, you have to realize that you have infinite potential, and it comes from within. You also have unlimited potential from the outside, when you engage in prayer, and meditation, on a daily basis. Prayer and meditation will positively charge you, and you will contribute to the benefit of others as a result of it.
In turn, all of this helping of others will result in finding people around you who are more than willing to give you a helping hand.
The following ideas will cultivate positive energy around you.
Make it a point to wake up in the morning with excitement and say hello to everyone you come into contact with. This goes for the security guard, janitor, your coffee barista, garage attendant, cashier at the store, and anyone else you may overlook in the course of your day.
Stop criticizing your family members, co-workers, friends, and associates.
Be diplomatic first, before giving any advice.
Let your family know that you love them every day.
Be sincere and treat everyone as important.
Take time to give to people. This doesn't have to be expensive. You could give a smile, a compliment, a card, a letter, or flowers.
Become a trustworthy partner with family, friends, co-workers and associates.
Set goals - whether they are tangible or not. It is a healthy practice to have goals at any age. The final results will be that your positive energy will attract positively charged personalities and successful people will seek you out. If this is a major change for you, it will not happen overnight.
There is a Zulu saying: “Patience is an egg that hatches great birds.”
Why should you become an eternal optimist?
Every one of us has a choice. When you fall down, you must pick yourself up. You can't blame life's hurdles or obstacles – you have to find solutions to get over, around, under, or through them.
Focus on your past achievements and learn to be happy with yourself. Everyone has failed, at some point, but we must constructively learn from our past experience.
Your individual approach, to life's daily obstacles, is the gateway to success or failure. Therefore, success is a matter of choice.
Building Positive Energy
In relation to what most of us see as possible - success is unlimited. When primal man first discovered fire, could he imagine the concept of a forge? When modern man discovered the forge, could he imagine sky scrapers? To build positive energy for pursuit of common goals and success, you need a support group. Find and seek out like-minded people.
Kurmasana, or tortoise pose, in all it’s variations provides the opportunity to withdraw from external distractions and pull deeply inward physically, mentally and even emotionally.
"After completing this pose, one feels refreshed, as though one had woken up from a long undisturbed sleep." -B.K.S. Iyengar
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