The Yamas and Niyamas
Hi everyone! I haven’t posted in so long, but I’m back! 2020 has been a whirlwind so far. I traveled back to New York after the holidays, went to the Dominican Republic to learn about food and tourism, and then moved out of my apartment in New York City to move to Barcelona with my dog, Winnie. Now, I have completed my 200 H yoga teacher training at Yogalinda and that was 6 days a week from 9-5 for the whole month of February. Now that its March I want to focus on how I can stay balanced and aware.
I almost quit halfway through because I was so exhausted (I’m an overactive vata, haha maybe this is for another post) and was honestly feeling pretty crazy, but I ended up staying because I truly love yoga so much and it has helped me become more aware in every aspect of my life. My own strengths and weaknesses are brought to my awareness without me having to take it so personally all the time. And when I do take it personally, I know I can come back to my breath. There’s always a solution as well as so many possibilities.
Right now I’m focusing on some of Yamas and Niyamas. In this training, I learned that yoga is so much more than the physical aspect of it. It’s the awareness and discipline you carry outside of your practice as well. The Yamas are attitudes and restraints, so basically ways you can stay disciplined to maintain a deeper awareness towards different aspects of life. In short, this is what they are:
- Ahimsa – Non-violence / Kindness
- Satya – Non-lying / Authenticity
- Asteya – Non-stealing / Honesty
- Brahmacharya – Non-excessiveness / Minimalism
- Aparigraha – Non-possessiveness / Selflessness
I will not be violent to myself
One of them that I’m focusing on is Ahimsa, which is practicing non-violence. Of course, it’s important to not be violent towards others (remember that self-defense is always okay), but even though we may not be violent towards others, it’s pretty easy to be violent towards ourselves. I am the type of person that has beat myself up over every little thing. I’ve been a perfectionist throughout my life and when things didn’t go as planned, I really liked to blame myself for everything and that xyz could’ve worked out if I had tried just a little harder. However, this is an act of violence. These thoughts are violent and toxic and they can rob us of the present moment and happiness.They can also even manifest into self-destruction.
I feel like this isn’t talked about enough. It’s so easy to go through the day with a big smile on your face, while feeling this terrible war inside yourself. Of course you don’t want to unnecessarily bring others to your own battle, but it feels isolating when you feel like you are going through it alone. If you can relate to this, maybe you’re thinking okay but I can’t just turn that off. The thing is that it’s not about turning it off, it’s about observing the violent thought and seeing where it is coming from without judging it. We shouldn’t resist our dark thoughts but rather look at them with curiosity and kindness. This cultivates a deeper awareness of ourselves which can be incredibly healing.
I am also focusing on Brahmacharya. Since I’ve sold most of my things in New York, I realize how I really don’t need to own a whole lot of stuff (especially while traveling). I only need things that I use and that spark joy (shout out to Marie Kondo!). I notice when I own less, I have more energy in general.
The Niyamas are qualities that help enrich our experiences. Just like the Yamas, they can bring us more energy:
- Saucha – Cleanliness/Minimalism
- Santosha – Acceptance
- Tapas – Discipline
- Svadyaya – Study of Self/Yoga
- Ishvara Pranidhana – Surrendering
Right now, I’m focusing on Saucha. My mood is greatly affected by my physical surroundings. I love good smells, lighting, and space. There’s a lot of clean burn candles around my apartment and I like to be around light so I can feel energized. The space part is what I like to work on the most, because I hate doing the dishes. It’s the one thing that I will put off, but it negatively affects my mood when dishes are left in the sink. It may seem like a small, silly thing but it’s things like these that can really weigh us down without us noticing. Saucha is brought into my awareness to prevent this from happening. I guess you could say this is Tapas (discipline) so I make sure I do the dishes and also Ahimsa (non-violence) so I’m not mad at myself when I don’t.
I’m thinking of making a longer video to talk about all of the Yamas and Niyamas because there is really so much to say about them. They are so simple, but have such a positive affect on my life helping to keep me in balance. I think I read somewhere that humans are like planes. We can go on autopilot but we need a pilot to keep ourselves on course and that is exactly what we are doing with the Yamas and Niyamas. I wish I remember where I heard the pilot thing, but this is how we can achieve our best health. Which Yamas and Niyamas do you want to work on and why? I like to pick one or two at a time, so I can bring more balance into each area.
If you would like to read more about positivity, see how I stopped binge eating. 🙂