Considered the father of modern yoga, Patanjali created the Yoga Sutras, a guidebook of sorts to help those on their path towards enlightenment. Sutras, or threads, provide a succinct, nugget of knowledge that provide insight into the core of yoga. This goes beyond the physical practice and includes as a way of being in the world. In the text, Patanjali outlines the Eight Limbs of Yoga, each a stepping-stone towards enlightenment. The eight limbs are:
- Yama – moral guide
- Niyama- personal observances
- Asana – physical postures
- Pranayama – breath
- Pratyahara – withdrawal of senses
- Dharana – concentration
- Dhyana – meditation
- Samadhi – bliss state
The first two stones, yama and niyama, are foundational to Patanjali’s eight-limb path. There are five yamas and five niyamas. The yamas can be thought of as “moral discipline”; they help to provide guidance in our actions and relationships with others and the world. The niyamas can be thought of as “observances” and are more inwardly focused on oneself.
In my teacher training, when we learned the yamas and niyamas we were challenged to choose one to focus on throughout the next week. I really enjoyed this exercise; it helped me to carry yoga off the mat and into my day-to-day life. Over the coming weeks, I am going to return to this exercise in order to dive deeper into the theory behind the practice. For each week, I’ll choose a yama or niyama to focus on, sharing here more detail on the yama or niyama, and how I brought it more into my life for that week.