The yoga sutras begin to make sense only through direct experience of their meaning. This is why I like to write about the yamas and niyamas, the first two limbs of the eight-fold path of yoga sutras. It helps me “live my yoga.”
The yamas and niyamas each have five precepts. They lay out the living principles of yoga and provide rich material to examine one’s thoughts, feelings and actions. In this way, the sutras are a powerful therapeutic tool for personal work.
The great paradox of this “work” is that there is no reward to strive for. The practice is the reward.
One of our greatest challenges as Westerners practicing yoga is to learn to define progress through signs that are not often acknowledged by the culture at large. Such as, are we moving toward greater kindness, patience, or tolerance toward others? Are we able to remain calm and centered even when others around us become agitated and angry?
How we speak, how we treat others, and how we live are the attributes we must need to learn to recognize in ourselves. These invisible signs help us to gauge the progress of our personal work. When we begin to live life committed to our most deeply held values we begin to discern the difference between the appearance of outward achievement and the true experience of transformation.
If using the yoga sutras intrigues you, I invite you to take a stroll through my blog. As you learn more about the sutras, you can play around with them. One way to play is to study one precept each week or for a month at a time. I currently have the word “Ahimsa” on my refrigerator. It’s the first precept of the first limb of the yoga sutras, providing the foundation from which all of yoga is built. It’s a deceptively simple precept that is translated as nonviolence. Seeing the word each day is a gentle reminder to practice kindness and compassion.
As you begin to live your yoga, take time to periodically ask “Who am I becoming through this practice? How am I walking the talk? How can I further embody this characteristic?”