20 Chapters
Medium 9781609947972

Three: The Second Limb: Personal Code of Conduct

Showkeir, Maren S. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Personal transformation can and does have global effects.
As we go, so goes the world, for the world is us.
The revolution that will save the world is ultimately
a personal one
.

Mary Catherine Bateson

 

By now, you have a sense of how interrelated the yamas truly are. Violating one yama inevitably involves negative action in another. Practicing one strengthens and supports the practice of the others. Ahimsa (non-violence) cannot be achieved without aparigraha (non-hoarding) and practicing aparigraha makes it impossible to violate asteya (non-stealing). Practicing satya (truth-telling) will help you honor asteya (non-stealing) and brahmacharya (managing vital energies).

Michelle Ryan, who owns a yoga studio in Florence, Massachusetts, says practicing the yamas informs every aspect of her business. “I try hard to incorporate ahimsa in what I do, compassion for students and where they might be in their lives. I also try hard to be truthful (satya). I am honest with students about what they can and can’t do physically, and also about what I do or do not know! I am conscious about not sharing others’ ideas as if they are my own, which is asteya. And I do not look at my students as dollar-signs walking through the door, aparigraha. From a business standpoint, that may not make much sense to some people. But I am not teaching for the money—although it’s nice when that manifests, too!”

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Nine: The Eighth Limb: Absorption (Samadhi)

Showkeir, Maren S. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

One is rigorously awakened by
stirring the desire for enlightenment itself
.

Dogen Zenji

 

You can hear the smile in Heather’s voice as she talks about the day she took her father to his first yoga class. She is a senior manager at a wellness resort in the southwestern United States. At one time, her father had been an elite runner who placed in the Boston marathon. As a runner, her father had always been attentive to the warm-up, cool-down stretching that athletes do. Aging eventually slowed him down, and some of the activities that once had fueled his passion became unavailable to him. Heather’s sporadic attempts to get him interested in yoga had gone nowhere until he was in his eighties. While he was visiting from the East Coast, she finally persuaded him to come to the resort and take a yoga class with her.

“Our mission here [at the wellness resort] is intended to be holistic. What we do has a spiritual aspect that is centered on mindfulness and living your life in a fully present way. So many times I had tried to explain to my dad what mindfulness is, and why it is important to me, but he just wasn’t interested,” Heather says. “On the way to the yoga class, I was trying again to make him understand the shift that happens when you are truly present. But it didn’t seem to resonate or even interest him. He was looking out the window, saying, ‘Uh huh … Uh huh.’”

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Seven: The Sixth Limb: Focus (Dharana)

Showkeir, Maren S. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Settle in the here and now.
Reach down into the center
where the world is not spinning
and drink this holy peace.…
.

Donna Faulds

 

Mary was in a room filled with more than sixty yogis, though she might as well have been alone. When she is on her mat, Mary says there is nothing else: “It is me, my mat, and my breath. I am so focused on my practice that I don’t even realize who is on either side of me. After class is over, I look around and think, ‘Oh yeah, there is so and so.’”

In this class, her longtime teacher, Rod Stryker, was talking the yogis through the mechanics of Lord of the Dance pose, natarajasana, an advanced posture requiring great strength, flexibility, and most especially, balance. On the mat next to Mary, a friend wobbled, fell out of the pose, then executed a tuck, tumble, and roll right under Mary’s feet.

Her pose never wavered.

Focus, or dharana, is the sixth limb of yoga. This practice is devoted to bringing a laser-like concentration to one thing—a mantra, the flicker of candlelight, a mental image, or a spot on the wall. This state of deep concentration, when mastered, forces the mind into the now. It is fully present in this place, at this time.

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Medium 9781626560536

Two: The First Limb: Universal Morality

Showkeir, Maren S. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

We are here to awake from
our illusion of separateness
.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Most religions or philosophies speak to some aspect of the morality contained in the words of the Sutra referencing the yamas. Robert Johnson’s classic treatise on Patanjali’s Sutras explains that “The commandments [yamas] form the broad general training of humanity. Each rests on a universal spiritual law.” Patanjali says that the commandments are not limited to any “race, place, time, or occasion.” They are to be integrated into daily living.

Often called the moral restraints, the precepts in the yamas are universal, and are framed as the “do nots” in life’s list of moral do’s and don’ts. The precepts contained within this First Limb are:

Ahimsa—non-violence

Satya—non-lying

Asteya—non-stealing

Brahmacharya—non-squandering of vital energies

Aparigraha—non-greed, non-hoarding

Put into positive wording, ahimsa asks that you eschew all forms of violence and treat all living things with respect and compassion. Satya is a commitment to truthfulness and transparency. Asteya means we take only that which is freely given. Brahmacharya is about controlling our senses and energies so we can cultivate our inner life, and aparigraha is about living simply by taking or using nothing more than what we truly need.

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Five: The Fourth Limb: Breath Control (Pranayama)

Showkeir, Maren S. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Listen, are you breathing just a little
and calling it a life?

Mary Oliver

 

Steve, a physician who works as a development officer for a large West Coast medical university, has found practicing breath control (pranayama) at work is a way to slow down a conversation, allowing him to be more grounded and thoughtful. When he is asked a question, he takes a slow, deep inhale and exhale before answering, a practice he adopted after a yoga teacher suggested it in class several years ago. “It helps me slow down that gerbil on the treadmill in my mind. I need that time to really think about what I have to say. It helps me not regret what I say.”

He’s noticed that most people at work answer questions without hesitation. It is not uncommon to hear someone respond before the other person even finishes a sentence. “I’ve even noticed in job interviews how quickly people respond,” Steve says. “I ask questions, and a lot of times I get a canned response. It’s like they came prepared with answers and are looking for a way to insert them into the conversation, instead of taking the time to really think about the question, then give a thoughtful response.”

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