I have been teaching the Yamas and Niyamas, ten ethical precepts, in my Anusara-Inspired classes for the last few months. My girlfriend likes to call them the Yoga 10 Commandments. It was an interesting way to learn them a little better myself. The biggest challenge was to interpret the Yamas and Niyamas from a more classical vein into a more Tantric/Anusara vein. I wrote the Yamas into my Christmas blog and by request (Pauline); I am going to describe both the Yamas the Niyamas as I taught them. What I am saying here is “This is my interpretation“. John Friend, or a certified teacher, might not agree with me or have a completely different spin on them, but it was a great exercise in analytical thinking and adapting classical yoga material into a heart-based teaching. I have put the classical interpretation in regular script and my interpretation in italics. The first 5 are Yamas, dealing with the external more so, and the Niyamas are the next five and they deal with more internal observances.
Ahimsa: (non-violence) Non-violence towards others. This includes animals, which is one of the reasons many yogis are vegetarians.
By loving ourselves and remembering our true nature we are naturally more inclined to love others. We do not obstruct the divine flow. In asana, this also means we go to our edge but we never push so much we are in pain.
Satya: (truthfulness) Speak the truth.
Be truthful to who you are and where you are in your practice. Speak the truth to others in a way that doesn’t hurt them (the first Yama) I always remember John talking about the gates of speech when I think of this one.
Asteya: (non- stealing) Do not steal from others.
Be full in your experiences and let others be full in their experience. Do not rob yourself of the joy of new experiences- do not steal another’s pleasure by being jealous. People often steal because they feel they are lacking so remember that the first principle in Anusara Yoga reminds of our fullness: purna.
Bramacharya: (celibacy) One should abstain from sexual intercourse except for procreation because it depletes the body.
Yeah- mama. This was a fun one to teach…I went at it this way: Have the conduct (charya) of God (Brama). Do not let small things in life take you away from the bigger picture. God is all seeing, can you spread you awareness to encompass more than one thing? We should live our lives in moderation and consideration of all things. We should have integrity in our relationships.
Aparigraha: (non-coveting) Do not covet or horde things. Do not covet things that belong to others. Do not cling to material possessions.
Everything has a time and a place and we have to sometimes let things go when there time is over; both people and things. By letting the things that no longer serve us go we actually make space for something else. When we let go of something, or someone, or some idea, we have space in our lives for other things, experiences or ideas to enter.
Saucha: (cleanliness) Our bodies and minds should be clean and purified.
Do you notice when you walk into your house when it’s clean you seem so happy and when it’s a mess you get angry? (Ok- maybe that’s just me….) Making your place to practice simple and clean, having a clean mat and natural light all bring saucha. Eating organic food, recycle – all these things can be saucha. At the heart level we come to every practice with a fresh attitude. Though we may be troubled or injured we begin on the mat like a clean slate waiting for Grace to write on us. (Of the 3 A’s in Anusara Attitude come first for a reason)
Santosha : ( Contentment) Rest or ease of mind in one’s current situation. To be with out envy.
If our true nature is “always present and full of peace and completely free” why do we feel so discontented? We feel content when we are truly aligned with Grace- we feel content when we remember our true nature. When we are misaligned or feel separate, than these feelings of unease and discontent come up. In a way it is a reminder to come back to the place of the middle. You can look at unhappiness as way to remind you that your true nature is not in alignment with your current situation. On a subtle level this is reflected in the 2nd A in Anusara- Alignment.
Tapas: (austerity) lit. “heat” or “glow.” Sacred heat generated by certain physical or spiritual practices; ritual self-purification; austerity. A process of transcendence through continued effort, experiencing the force of evolution in life; heat; austerity
Tapas helps us burn away the cloaks that cover the pathway to our heart. It burns away obstacles in our path but it also lights the way with its glow.
Svadhyaya: (Self- Study) Self reflection. Study of Scripture or Sacred Texts.
Tapas clears a pathway to the mirror, burns away the layers so we can see in the mirror but when we look into the mirror what do we see? What information and wisdom do we gain when we look into the mirror? What is reflected in the mirror is only valuable if we choose to look at it with the openness of self reflection. Often the study of texts or scripture helps give us insight into what we see in the mirror and how to deal with it. To discover who you really are is one of the greatest rewards of Yoga practice. We may, or may not, like what we see, but our past inherent responses to daily situations, and our habits, give us measurements to clearly see which path is our proper direction. Anusara is a practice where we actively do svadhyaya in the asana practice. The poses themselves become a tool for self reflection when done in that inquiring, active, mindset.
Ishvarapranidhana : ( Surrender to God) Surrendering to the will of God, surrendering the fruits of your action to God.
The quality of our actions is more important than the end result. In Anusara we have: Attitude, Alignment and Action- the 3 A’s. Attitude still comes first and then alignment and then action. Most of us focus on the actions and therefore miss a whole journey along the way. The other interesting point is that with English language surrender can mean to “give up” to not try. In Anusara, we start with first principle, a big “YES” to remembering we are part of a divine connection that goes through everyone and everything. It becomes more of a joining than a surrendering. We then effort, we do the pose to the best of our abilities and training, but what we surrender is the outcome. We can only surrender the outcome if we remember the first principle in Anusara “Open to Grace”.