This blogpost is about living yoga and not only practicing it, which is as or maybe even more important. Remember: Yoga without the mindset is only pilates. All information is based on the German book „Die zehn Lebensempfehlungen des Yoga – Bewusst leben mit den Yamas und Niyamas” from Alexander Kobs which means “the ten life recommendations of yoga – conscious living with the Yamas and Niyamas“.
The four ways of practising yoga which should be practised all together;
spiritually: (expanding consciousness and understand that you are more than just a physical body)
- studying yoga philosophy
- initiating personal growth
- getting to know yourself
- practicing the yamas and niyamas
physically: (flexibility and strength and preventing diseases)
- caring for your health
- improve stability
- practising yoga asanas
energetically: (influences moods and thoughts, feeling lighter and balanced and having more energy)
- balancing your energetic household
- strength, finding happiness in life, building self trust
mentally: (aware breathing and the „in-the-moment-state“)
- concentration training, building stress-resistance, creating balance in life
- Being able to let go and sleep better
The Yamas consists out of these 5 facettes;
Ahimsa- not hurting, breaking or killing
- Nonviolence and getting rid of enmity
- Developing compassion, empathy and tolerance
- Being free from isolation and separation
- cooperativeness and developing braveness, self-trust
Satya- not lying
- Truthfulness, being brave to speak up when grievance happen
- Avoiding exaggerations, falseness
- Not seeing people and situations as threatening
Asteya- not stealing
- Not being greedy and jealous
- Respecting others belongings and relationships
- Not letting others bribe you or
Brahmacharya- not wasting energy
- Regulating own life-force-energy
- Using sexual energy in moderation
- Spiritual concentration and transformation to the divine
Aparigraha- not striving for material possessions
- Being modest and humble
- Using resources wisely
- Not clinging onto objects
- Not collecting too much
- Having more time to find your life purpose
Niyamas consist out of:
- physical hygiene and mental clearness
- healthy eating and breathing
- relevating the purpose of the body
- awareness practices and ability to discriminate
Santosha- being satisfied
- inner calmness of the soul
- tranquility whatever happens
- being thankful and keeping inner happiness
- acceptance in change
Tapas – disciplining yourself
- creating own motivaion
Svadhaha – to study yourself
- learning (yoga sutra e.g.)
- understanding your own nature
- learning with competent teachers
- recognizing the destination of yoga
Ihvara Pranidhana- being on a higher frequency
- open to the divine
- meditation and karma yoga
- being a bart of the whole oneness
Yamas – recommendations for human relations
Ahimsa, which is one of the most important steps in the yamas means also „be good to you and to others“. It brings more meaning to life, relationships and the work the people do. Being aware of the fact that everything that exists has been created and made by other people, maybe even hundreds of years before.
The climate change, clearing woodland and eliminating many animal- and plant species because of the excessive meat consumption is an example for the opposite of ahimsa. Imagine we would we would take more care of others, our earth, resources and would be aware of the consequences of our actions. Maybe you have heard of the butterfly effect, that every action has influence and everything could be different in your life if this one small thing did not happen? Ahimsa includes peace and it starts in ourselves. It also means to be aware if you are only stilling your hunger or if you are nourishing yourself. Are you forcing yourself to do a yoga practice and trying to do more than you should? You should not go against anything but it also means to not let others hurt or treat you bad. As self-defence when needed or with no reaction.
Satya, the truthfulness means also being true to yourself and not being too distracted by the illusion (Maya). It is about honesty and respect in communication, accepting things the way they are as their truth and not wanting certain things to be true leads to suffering, which can be avoided. If you are aware of your thoughts impulsive acting in form of anger will not take place anymore. Spreading rumours is an act of untruthfulness just as promises you cannot keep.
Asteya, not stealing seems very obvious and sounds like one of the ten commandments but it means more than not taking any material possessions from another person. It is associated with letting go from wanting, practicing tapas in form of self-discipline and being content (Satosha). Greed for material or non-materialistic is a very unhealthy behaviour. It can start with taking the small shampoo bottles from the hotel like Kobe describes it. Stealing ideas, data, music, art or text counts too. Appreciation, admiration and inspiration could be replaced with that. As a form of respect for the person creating it.
Brahmacharya, which is the presence in divine consciousness and truthfulness. In other words: The real one truth and the whole oneness. It is associated with abstinence, no unhealthy sexual behaviour. The goal is to be able to control your senses on deeper conscious levels because it is more important to chose the behaviour that serves the highest self.
You do not have to get rid of any sensuality or suppressing certain emotions but to choose wisely and not letting the things you enjoy take your energy.
Truth is that real fulfilment will not be found in short-therm satisfaction such as sex, unhealthy food or materialistic things. Sexual energy for example is a very powerful energy and should not be overused
Aparigraha, the unpretentious and the fifth and last Yama is a life recommendation which is saying to fulfil the basic requirements and not falling too deep into the consumerism trap. The reason behind is that the advertising is promising you things that are not happening (like getting woman/ man like you for wearing this perfume or being part of high society for drinking this prosecco). These illusions that make you phantasise about life being more enjoyable through material possessions are a toxic circle. Once you get the shampoo bottle and use it for a while you will buy the next one because none of those make your hair look like you just got out of a hair-dresser salon. The constant hunt after “the” answer and fulfilment will only lead to disappointment, wasting time and money. We are thought to be consumers and we know that things can be our friends because they are supposed to help us but we reached a point where we are suffocating in “stuff”. The solution; practising minimalism. I never got to read the word minimalism in this book but our modern culture defined a word for Aparigraha.
It is also important to practise ahimsa with our consumer behaviour and take a look at the companies and businesses we are supporting by buying from them. For the workers, our environment and the animals.
Niyamas – recommendations to live in harmony with yourself
Saucha, that means cleansing mentally such as physically. Mental cleaning takes a lot of awareness and discernment especially when it comes to deciding which thoughts and impressions you want to have.
The clarity is needed for behaviour and habit-changing on the outside. The practise of saucha consist out of being a neutral observing person and seeing your activities, consequences without the usual emotions. It might be confusing but because of that you can see what actions are conductive and then you can take action in changing your behaviour. It is cleansing from what is bothering for the mind and body.
E.g. instead of watching nonsense on tv, choosing to watch a wholesome tv-show you can learn something from, choosing books that are beneficial for your personal growth and development.
Parts of Saucha also are; Hygiene, nutritious food (clean eating), breathing techniques, clean surroundings (workspace, home, car), reducing clinging behaviour on the “I” and fear of death, being able to differing with your inner coach, right choices, good habits and realising patterns
Satosha, being content. The more dreams come true, the more wishes you get. Higher expectations come with it and it leads to dissatisfaction. Being happy and content is the goal of the individual human being, yet still plays stress, depression and doubt a big role in our society. On the other side, society suggests a certain lifestyle to promise happiness. Media presents entertainment, cars, sex, alcohol, clothing, food and much more to be a necessity. The illusion is, that happiness comes when fulfilling our wishes, dreams and desires.
Desire is born when you experience something you like, the “I” connects to this experience and tries to take a chance to repeat it, but lives in fear to lose it and tries to protect it at all costs.
But the less we want, the happier we become.
Gratefulness for what you already have is the way to go.
Tapas, the fire of self-discipline, the third Niyama means opening the door to more willpower, control over mind and body, purification for non-benefitial behaviour and habits and as a spiritual tool to a freer life. Tapas provoke resistance but promotes necessary change. Goals in yoga and life are hard to reach without this Niyama, change comes from the uncomfortable. It can also result in waking potential and motivation, reaching goals and competences, experiencing the unknown and control over language and actions.
What you experience as comfortable does not automatically mean that it is good for you and what is good for you sometimes means it is comfortable. For example doing a workout or yoga should be seen as “It is my free will to do it.” “I am allowed to” instead of “I have to”. The magic happens when you fall in love with the process but the first step it to tap into unknown water. Then you can create habits you practice consistently.
Svadhyaya, studying yourself is meant as getting to know yourself better. Self-knowledge and realising your faults. By knowing yourself better and understanding how you react to certain situations. Tapas would only be punishment without Svadhaya. Self-study means also studying yoga texts and practising mantra meditation such as consistency in doing so. Believing in the godly existence is the first step, experiencing it is the next Niyama.
Ishvara Pranidhana – dedication to the divine is supposed to bring you fulfilment of Samadhi. Divine energy can also be seen as god, truthfulness and its power. Experiencing the beauty of the big creation can happen in nature in the mountains, on fields, in deserts, during a sunset or a thunderstorm. The divine lives as an individual part, in humans, in animals and in things. But feeling like a part of the divine beauty in the creation is this last Niyama. The state can be described as pure consciousness and being. The only risk connected to god is that people from different religions speak from their ego with things like; “My god is better than yours” or “He has the more beautiful temples”. This has led to religious wars and intolerance.
Work, helping people and projects for a good cause should be done selfless and without expecting anything in return. That is real karma-yoga. Working on yourself to be a better person for you and others is a part of it as well.
Whatever you do, do it mindfully and with full awareness. While brushing your teeth, eating your food, having a conversation, watching a movie, cleaning up, doing work and even when practising yoga. This is called meditation in action and gives you more spirituality during your everyday life and let go of mindsets such as; if I do and get this I will be spiritual, if I do this and that my friends will like me more, if I get this and that I will be a better person.
In summary I think that the modern names for ways to live a happier life without knowing about the yoga-sutras are all based on this knowledge. Minimalism, veganism, meditation, mindfulness, anti excessive consumerism, selfcare, self love, no judgment, living in the moment are all part of it. If it seems like a lot of change for you then do not worry because it is not about perfectionism either. There is no better day than starting today and making small steps at a time. I started eating plant-based, was interested in yoga and meditation and was practising occasionally because I didn’t know if I am doing it “right”. Then plant-based turned into a vegan lifestyle, I started being excited about minimalism but also that took me a longer while to get the actual mindset fitting for my personal life. Spirituality always played a big part in my life but there were times during my journey where I felt more “disconnected”. Since summer 2019 I earned a lot of expanding consciousness insights and had actual spiritual experiences that changed me and my way of thinking in a positive way. My plastic-waste behaviour changed in small steps and I keep going forward because I know how true, pure, right and good it feels. When it feels right in your heart space and intuition you know you should go for it even if it can be uncomfortable.