A Journey Through the Yamas and Niyamas

Hello Lovelies,

So, did you know that yoga is more than just those pretty poses you see plastered all over Instagram? Did you know there's more than the physical asana practice, and some people actually form their spirituality and daily life around the teachings of yoga? These are the aspects we rarely talk about but are just as important. Let me give you a bit of a back story and explain what I mean.

For several years now, I've had a pretty non-existent relationship with religion. Even though I was raised Christian, it's safe to say that I haven't identified with the religion since I was about 16 years old. Ever since then, I pretty much gave up on religion and lived my life not really caring about finding a new one to feel as though my life was complete. I could probably write an entire post on religion and my complicated relationship with it, but I want to focus on how spirituality has come back into my life through yoga for this post.

With the completion of yoga teacher training in 2016, I've become interested in learning more about religion and spirituality. Opening myself back up to religion has felt strange in some respects, but also healing in other ways. You could probably say that the healing I've experienced through developing a yoga practice has facilitated this renewal of interest in spirituality. This has led me to start reading about Hinduism, with its myriad deities, and the yamas and niyamas that are associated with yoga. 

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen me talking about this a little while back in my stories where I explained why I was going to be reading a book about the basics on Hinduism, titled An Introduction to Hinduism. This curiosity has also led me to read some pretty fun books, like The Little Book of Hindu Deities. If you're ever interested in a topic you know little or nothing about, I seriously recommend finding a children's book on the topic. It's not only fun but actually really helpful in getting you started. 

In order to keep this learning and growing going, I made a goal for myself to work through the book, The Yamas & Niyamas. I've had this book for a little over a year now and only have been able to get through the first chapter. I have a feeling this book is going to be quite dense and both emotionally and spiritually challenging...this is probably why I've put off reading it for so long.

If you're not familiar with the Yamas and Niyamas, here is a brief explanation:
The yamas and niyamas are cornerstones of the yoga philosophy. These can be thought of as tenets or guidelines for how to live a yogic life, an ethical compass of sorts. Each one is made up of five tenets each - yamas being the "restraints," things that you should be wary of and work to have the opposite in your life; niyamas being the "observances" and are the characteristics you want more of in your life or strive for.

Here are the tenets of each:
Yamas - (Non)Violence, (Truth)Lying, (Non)Stealing, (Non)Excess, and Possessiveness
Niyamas - Purity, Contentment, Self-discipline, Self-study, and Surrender

So, as a way of holding myself accountable and taking you all along with me, I'm announcing that this is the first of a series of looking at the yamas and niyamas. Each week, I'll be reading one tenet, journaling about what it means for me and how I incorporate (or am struggling to incorporate) it into my life, then write a post to share with you all. Each post will include an explanation of that week's tenet, some of my reflections, and some journal prompts or exercises to get you started on bringing these into your life. I'm really excited to get this started, to finally be making this book a priority, and hope that it'll be helpful for you as well. 

If you're thinking, "Wait, I thought yoga was just an exercise, going to class and doing all these poses," I totally get you. Like I said, most people think yoga is just the postures, which isn't help by the flooding of pictures of the asana practice all over social media. But, that's actually only one part of an eight part practice. These eight parts are called the "Eight Limbs of Yoga," and the yamas and niyamas (what we'll be exploring) are the first and second limbs. If you're interesting in learning more, I recommend taking a look at this article from Yoga Journal that gives an overview of each limb.

Looking forward to taking this journey with you all! Until next week..

- Namaste