I celebrate my 50th birthday this year and I’d like to invite you not to a party but to a shared yoga inquiry. The current debates about the regulation of Yoga teacher training have had me wondering a lot about the evolution of yoga in modern, western culture. I’ve decided to look again at Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga and specifically the yamas and niyamas. There is so much public forum dialogue around the physical and neuroscience aspects of yoga. It strikes me that these first two limbs mentioned in the Sutras, seem often overlooked or at best given cursory attention. I want to explore whether they are philosophical remnants of another age of yoga or are as relevant today as ever?
Each month over next 10 months I will be posting a blog piece on each of the yamas and niyamas both here and on the ‘Ashtanga Yoga Ade’ Facebook page. It will contain the ideas, questions and insights that have arisen for me related to that month’s theme. My intention is to try to keep it personal and practical, to minimise ‘Sanskrit seasoning’ and generic philosophizing. In short to look at each ‘code’ in the context of my 21st century, European life.
I invite you to follow along and add your comments to the mix in the spirit of collective inquiry rather than polarized debate. We may well see things differently. I would hope that we can learn from those differences rather than succumbing to the temptation to defend our position or attack the alternative.
I was introduced to this type of ‘open study’ by Sonia Moriceau who encouraged me to adopt a theme for inquiry over an extended period of weeks or even months. She suggested we simply allow the theme to percolate throughout our days. By all means, read around the topic, write down your thoughts, hold a question or idea during your regular practice, but also be open to the possibility of the theme drifting in and out of your mind at any time during the day. Allow events and experiences, feelings and moods to colour and inform the inquiry. Then towards the end of the month, attempt to draw things together in a clear and concise written summary. I am surprised by how easy that last stage often seems, even when I begin with little idea about the theme in question.
The order that I will present the blogs is as follows :
March – Santosha / contentment
April – Ahimsa / non-violence
May – Tapas / intense discipline
June – Satya / truthfulness
July – Aparigraya / freedom from wanting
August – Isvara pranidhana – surrender to a higher meaning
September – Asteya / non-stealing
October – Svadhyaya / self study
November – Brahmacharya / moderation
If you are surprised by the way I’ve ordered and mixed the yamas and niyamas, I make no apology for the fact that this is a personal choice. They have been organized to fit what I think may well be relevant themes for me during the months ahead. In month 1 for example, I was involved in a headlong rush to finish a long running building project and move back into our home. Exploring santosha / contentment while in the midst of the chaos of a full scale house renovation seemed like a good idea! In month 2, I had a hernia operation scheduled, so ahimsa / non-violence seemed perfect for my recovery period. And so, the logic (sort of) continues throughout the year.
I’d be delighted if you would join me. Feel free to read the first entry as a kind of introduction and then launch into the theme for April. Or you could work a month in arrears and use the blog piece as a launch point for your own inquiries. You can add your own thoughts and questions on the Ashtanga Yoga Ade Facebook page (or on this website if you are not a Facebook user) and consider any comments you add as a 50th birthday gift to me!