Taoism and Modern Yoga

Laozi

In Westernized yoga, there appears to have been a bit of a confounding of eastern traditions in regards to their application in yogic philosophy. We tend to mix up Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, even Jainism and put them all into the same category of “mindfulness” aimed towards stress reduction and happier, more meaningful living. Not that mindfulness isn’t an appropriate subject, but I think it can be important to differentiate between the Eastern religions especially to understand their unique, individual philosophies.

Yoga doesn’t really have a category. Traditional yoga is very similar to Buddhism, but the yoga sutras of Patanjali seem to be the most authentic “yogic” teachings from a historical perspective. Many scholars would also agree that Patanjali’s sutras are heavily influenced by Buddhism. Ujjayi breathing is influenced by Taoist practices and many of the meditational practices in yoga come from Jain and Buddhist traditions.

Most modern yoga teachers seem to be most influenced by Buddhism when teaching, focusing on concepts of Dharana and Dhyana for meditation that are the same in buddhist texts.  Many bring modern science and anatomy into the practice which is a more efficient way to practice because it allows us to understand what is happening while we are performing asanas. With these tools we can avoid injury and progress safely into a fuller and easier practice.

Buddhism teaches that at the center of all things is peace, which is a bit different from the Hindu belief that all things have a divine core. The yoga sutras of Patanjali seem to be more influenced by the Hindu side of things and his concepts in the 8 limbs of yoga support a divine core of all beings. However, the Buddhist state of Nirvana and the Hindu state of Samadhi seem to be very similar conceptually.

Most modern yoga is geared towards balancing the body not necessarily towards complete purification. This is because the whole body purification is more of a youthful activity, it requires a lot more effort once you are older and the body is increasingly more toxic with age (at least as a general rule). Aging well in a yoga practice is not necessarily aligned with yang style of ashtanga or Bikram yoga, but rather a combination of Yin and Yang style of exercises. In this way, modern yoga is more Taoist than Buddhist or Hindu.

The yoga sutras are undoubtedly Hindu, but they borrow many buddhist teachings and concepts. The past of yoga, Hinduism, and Buddhism seem to be vastly intertwined with the rest of the eastern traditions, most notably Taoism to produce a modern hybrid western style of yoga. Patanjali’s famous quote to still the fluctuations of the mind might be very similar to finding Lao Tzu’s Tao. It is important to remember that eastern traditions tend to be less ordered and regimented than western religions because the religions tend to cross over into each other. If you get a chance to read Patanjali’s yoga sutras then enjoy searching for the different influences of the texts.

Panini

Panini is a very well-known Sanskrit grammarian that literally changed the way that language functioned until the 20th century and helped to pave the way for many aspects of modern language as we know it.

No one really knows when Panini was born or how he was raised, but most scholars place his birth around 400 – 600 BCE, some as far back as 1500 BCE. Panini marks the turn from the Vedic period to the Classical period because of his set of nearly 4,000 Sanskrit rules of morphology in his text called the Astadhyayi, one of the first texts on Sanskrit grammar and the first formal system of linguistics in the world.

Panini’s first formal system used many concepts that weren’t well understood until the computational linguistics of the 20th century starting to come around. He heavily influenced many modern scientists with his use of auxiliary symbols.

His work, the Astadhyayi was later analyzed by a Patanjali which is called the Mahabhasya and elaborates on Panini’s grammar. The man kept linguistic experts studying his rules for a thousand years and it took another thousand and a few hundred more years for his rules to be modernized and built on. His accomplishments are truly legendary.

The Astadhyayi marked the changed in period from Vedic to classical Sanskrit  and provided a linguistic foundation for the users of his language until it was used in modern technology. Panini is a man who you might never heard about, but he almost certainly influenced the way that you use language.

Raja Yoga

"Buddha preaching Abhidhamma in Tavatimsa" by Hintha - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Buddha_preaching_Abhidhamma_in_Tavatimsa.jpg#/media/File:Buddha_preaching_Abhidhamma_in_Tavatimsa.jpg

Raja yoga is a term with different meanings depending on context; in the 1900s, Swami Vivekanada equated it with the sutras of Patanjali. Raja means best, chief, or king; when used in yoga it means the highest state of yoga practice or striving for samadhi (bliss). This is the feeling that you achieve in savasana after a well afforded practice; after you’ve pushed yourself and worked hard. Hatha yoga is described as the way to achieve raja yoga when combined with the sutras of patanjali.

Raja is a term that has undergone changes over time until it was most recently equated with the yoga sutras by Swami Vivekanada, but it has always referred to a style of yoga that attempts to make unison with the Brahman, or universal divinity. Eight different steps have been mentioned numerous times and have also evolved over time as the usage of the word has evolved since it was used in the Bhagavad Gita. It has always been considered a type of yoga.

Raja yoga is similar to a path of meditation towards the divine, assimilating the philosophy of samadhi and complete awareness into everyday life. Historically, there are three goals of Raja yoga: an altered state of higher consciousness, an uncovering of the soul, and the yogic traditions of isolation, meditation, and retrospection. It is a term used to largely define the goal of the practices of hatha yoga.

Patanjali

"Patanjali Statue" by User:Alokprasad - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Patanjali_Statue.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Patanjali_Statue.jpg#/media/File:Patanjali_Statue.jpg

Patanjali was the author of the Yoga Sutras, one of the most influential yoga texts in the modern world. Despite what modernized and idealistic yoga blogs and sites will tell you, it was most likely a group of people who lived about 1600 years ago, but could be as old as 2500 years. I say that it was likely a group of people because of the amount of knowledge contained in the sutras and the way that people functioned in groups thousands of years ago. We like to attribute knowledge to one author, rather than recognizing the multitudes of authors, time periods, and influences that a piece of work contains. This is particularly true of the Christian bible.

Patanjali is the not father of modern yoga. That title can be given to Krishnamacharya. Patanjali was more of a founder; the group of people took works from their respective time period and before, then compiled them into digestible teachings that students and teachers could reference on their yoga journeys. He created a framework that Krishnamacharya would later use to create the modern poses, sequences, and specific techniques. Where Patanjali’s yoga begins is in the traditions that Krishnamacharya learned from his father and his father before him. Until yoga became modernized and everyone could start a daily practice of yoga.

As humans we love to idealize about the past and one figure completing this vast amount of infrastructural work for practitioners of yoga, but Patanjali is not a figure that we need to deify or put on a pedestal. There were likely multiple people with the name and likely multiple people who authored the yoga sutras. However, Patanjali’s work on the sutras is enough to keep us busy thinking about our own humanity instead of focusing on the origins of the text, because Patanjali did not seem to claim any credit for the contemporary authors of the yoga sutras.

The 196 sutras, or short teachings from the yoga sutras are fantastic in their comprehensive philosophical scope. They are also written in Sanskrit, which is a great administrative language and is very specifically used in philosophy. They were, however, lost to time in the 12th century until the 19th century when they were revived by modern Indian scholars. During the 19th and 20th century the texts rose in popularity and prominence over the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Vasistha, and other literature on Hatha yoga.

There are four parts to the yoga sutras:

  1. Samadhi Pada – describes oneness with the divine and Samadhi
  2. Sadhana Pada – describes practices and Ashtanga
  3. Vibhuti Pada – describes “supernatural” effects of yoga
  4. Kaivayla Pada – describes moksha, liberation, or enlightenment

Each of the four chapters is an invigorating review of conscious experience and systematic functionality of the human mind. The second chapter is probably the most concrete in terms of advice for actually practicing yoga, rather than philosophy and it is where the eight limbs of yoga or Ashtanga is explained.

Ashtanga is not only a system of acrobatic yoga propagated by Pattabhi Jois, but a philosophical system for achieving Samadhi and Moksha, also known as enlightenment. The eight limbs of yoga are described as scaffolding, or a framework for ascending into the heights of the yoga of knowledge, or Raja yoga, which BKS Iyengar described to be infinite. The eight limbs are as follows

  1. Yamas – ethics and restraints
  2. Niyamas – virtues
  3. Asanas – physical postures
  4. Pranayamas – breathing exercises
  5. Pratyahara – sense withdrawal
  6. Dharana – single pointed meditative focus
  7. Dhyana – meditative awareness of oneness
  8. Samadhi – unison and oneness with the divine in bliss

These are the scaffolding that Patanjali assembled to assist individuals in realizing their self. Many of these concepts cross-over into Buddhist ideals of meditation, as you may have already noticed. Once the self is realized, liberation and freedom from the cycles of death and rebirth is afforded to the practitioner.This modernization of Hinduism was very well received in the western world.

In reviewing the history of something as old and popular as yoga it is important to understand that we have only theories and hypotheses about what was happening 1500-2500 years ago. No one really knows the group who made up the author named Patanjali, how old they are, how they compiled their information, or what exact sources they used. Instead we can guess, which is more fun anyways.

You are the Guru

Patanjali Statue from the Jois Shala

Over the past few months of practicing in a traditional ashtanga setting, in what many people consider to be ‘classical yoga’ with a guru, I have come to the conclusion that the idea of having a ‘guru’ or single appointed teacher is outdated.

This is not to say that the old method of learning spiritual ritualistic techniques for calming the nervous system should be ignored, but in today’s age we are spoiled. We have the internet, multiple sources of information on everything from the endocrine system, to fluid cavities and storages annexes in the body, to advanced mechanical movement analysis from people like Leslie Karminoff (http://www.yogaanatomy.org/) and Ray Long (http://www.bandhayoga.com/).

It is important to have someone supervising you when you first start practicing yoga simply because it is going to be awkward. You’re going to feel weird and use muscles you normally don’t use. It’s also good to have someone who can observe your postures over time, so teachers, in general, are still very useful. But the idea of “having a guru” can be a limiting belief, can be an excuse to shove off responsibility, and can detract from your self knowledge about your humanity. When you write a solid research paper, you don’t use only one source, right? Though, there may be one source that stands out above the others, especially for the individual sub-topics you are interested in. You use the collective data as a whole to inform yourself so you can critically argue your point of view.

In other words, you are going to have favorites, teachers you like more or less than other because that is simply the way diversity and your brain works. But its an illusion. A part of the maya we are born into when we arrive. But the variety of teaching methods and different perspectives add accumulatively to the whole of your knowledge, especially with proper discernment and decision-making for what is important to you. No one else can decide this for you, not even a guru. You have to make those decisions.

Guru’s have been incredibly useful in the past. Think about the relationship between Socrates, Plato, then Aristotle. Transfering knowledge in the student to teacher fashion, 1 on 1, seems to be the most effective form of learning, for anyone. Being able to imitate makes doing things so much easier and it is essentially how we learn from each other. Have you ever had a friend with a different vocabulary that you pick a few words from and then notice yourself using? Our brains are always trying to copy, to compete, it is simply the way the brain functions. It helps to keep us alive.

So knowing this 1 to 1 relationship is key to learning, why can’t you have multiple teachers? Obviously, you will get some conflicting information, but that is a good thing! You want to be able to sort through things yourself and arrive at your own conclusion.

Maybe you want it easy so you decide to only learn from one teacher. Don’t you see how this can be limiting? Every instructor is going to have very different life experiences that you can learn from, different experiences in yoga that you can learn from, and definitely experiences that can teach you. In fact, you should consider everyone to be your teacher, in one way or another.

So in this way, we are all gurus and at the same time none of us are. This doesn’t mean everyone is going to be amazing at teaching yoga, but everyone knows things that we can learn from.

So we can consider individuals as one part of the collective guru, that is really inside of you and could probably be equated with Jung’s unconscious mind (yes, things are happening in your brain right now that you are not aware of). And with this comes a need for intense discernment, in the same way that you choose the food that will taste/feel best you have to choose the sources of information that have the most truth in them. This is how you gain valid knowledge, rather than running in circles choosing one person after another to think is the right one.

It’s up to you. It’s all in your head anyways, so use your intuition to feel what is right. Balancing between delving into a teachers system and maintaining your personal practice is always great, as is balancing between practicing by yourself and with some friends. Do what you want. your teacher doesn’t add validity to your yoga practice, because it’s all on you! With that said, if you have a great teacher, enjoy it cause that shit is the bomb too!

It’s probable that Patanjali was actually multiple people who worked together to create a common knowledge of yoga. This sounds more realistic than what the sacred texts say about Patanjali, being one man and inventing tons of yoga poses and ayurveda and all that other stuff one person was supposed to have done. If you ask me, sacred texts are all big marketing schemes for organizations to grow their influence (governments, churches, nobility, etc). You don’t see Jesus writing shit down in the bible stories. If you look at every major cultural movement in history, there are lots of people involved, not just one person leading it. Where would Dr. King be without Malcolm X and Rosa Parks? They happen in waves, with lots of groups of people involved, that’s why they are so enormous. If you’ve ever read Malcolm Gladwell, he has a great book called the Tipping Point that talk a lot about cultural movements.

So yoga is a cultural movement just like anything else. Just do what feels right and don’t put too much stock into one person. Who knows whats going to happen with them anyways? Who knows what their life is like? Yoga teaches you to take responsibility for your self so you can self-manage. Take advantage 😉

Sutra | सूत्र

sutra

A sutra is an aphorism, or collection of aphorisms in a manual or script from Buddhism, Hinduism, or Jainism. Siv means thread or line holding things together, which likely literally referred to the palm leaves used to write the manuscripts. This separates them from the Vedas which were passed down orally until recently. This form of literature was designed for concision, or using the least amount of words necessary to convey an idea, and were meant to be memorized and learned via scientific self-study, also known as Svadhyaya.

A sutra is a bit different in Jainism compared to Buddhism and Hinduism. In Jainism, Sutra refers to the canonized sermons of Mahavira contained in the Jain Agamas, and to some later (post-canonical) normative texts. The Jain Agamas are known as the canon of Jainism and explain the religion. 

In Buddhism, a sutra refers mostly to the canon the Gautama Buddha. Some think that the Buddhist usage of sutra was actually a mis-translation of sutta which the Buddha used to describe his first teachings. This is supported by the early Buddhist sutras; they do not present the aphoristic, nearly cryptic nature of the Hindu sutras, even though they were also designed for oral memorization. They share characteristics of “good news” of the Jain sutras.

An Aphorism is a greek word, meaning definition or distinction. Hypocrates was the first Greek to coin the term and the first sentence of his work using them was the following: ‘Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience deceptive, judgment difficult.’ In Hinduism, the terms is used for descriptions of phyiscal, metaphysical, moral, philosophical, or a concise statement containing a subjective truth or astute observation. Patanjali’s 196 yoga sutras are the basis for Ashtanga yoga, where Patanjali aggregated previous works on yoga to formulate and create the 8 limbs of yoga.

It seems like every teacher is trying to find new aphorisms to deliver to their classes, insights about cultural life in America and other aspects of life in the 21st century. Its just an observation, but it seems to be a basis for how the human mind functions, that we repeat memorized snippets that resonate with our intellect, our feelings, or whatever. The yoga sutras are extremely complex and cryptic, especially considering the diverse knowledge surrounding their creation, origin, and evolution over the hundreds of years that they have existed.

What sayings speak to you? Brian Kest has a quote that I can’t forget, “try to find a sweet spot that’s between too much and not enough, then try to stay there.” Sharing is caring…. 🙂

The 8 Limbs of Yoga (part 6: Dharana)

lotus

Dharana is a single pointed concentration of the mind, focus on a single thing supported by the retention of the breath. This is the 6th state of yoga, after the withdrawal of the senses in pratyahara and after the body has been tempered, the breath calmed and stilled, and the external environment cared for, as well as the internal bodily function of the yogi. Indeed, Dharana is a late stage of the progression of the yogi and must be followed with care and conscientiousness. It it towards the end of the path that it is easiest to stay from the ultimate goal. Don’t end up lost.

Dharana is a key to this. The yogi evokes a single concentration during the practice; dristhi towards the ultimate goal of union with the divine. It is only when a yogi is supported by his endeavors outside that he will be free to pursue the infinite realm of feeling and what is inside. Humans are stuck between two infinite abysses; the infinite smallness of the atom versus the infinite expanses of space of the universe. Our consciousness seems to be able to find stillness despite it all, to be able to create stillness and balance in the midst of the chaos of our universe. This is the gift of Dharana.

It is with the single-minded focus that the yogi is free to pursue blissful freedom. Possessions, attachments, and excess are left to follow the purest bliss, the highest nirvana, and ultimate happiness. This limb is the first of the Samyama, or utilizing Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi to truly know an object of the mind’s focus. This is why it is important to minimize distraction with the 5th limb of yoga, pratyahara, so that the objects of the senses are relinquished and pure concentration of the divine sought.

This is the first of the last three stages of yoga, each of which is intrinsic to the elevation of consciousness and enlightenment into the world of awareness. These are the deepest levels of meditation and lead into the darkest fathoms of the unconscious mind. Stay tuned for the 7th limb of yoga, Dhyana in the next blog in the series.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga (Part 2: Niyamas)

The Niyamas are rules for a yogi to apply to the way that they live. They are more of an internal way of applying discipline to consciousness, so they apply only to an individual. Niyamas are considered duties, or obligations to the practice of yoga. These are powerful ideas that allow for peace and the tranquility of the person and harmony with the environment. There are 5 restrictions, or rules from Patanjali: Saucha, purity of body; Santosa, contentment; Tapas or character building and non-attachment; Svadhyaya, self-study; and Isvara Pranidhana, surrender to god. These are building blocks for the yogi to build a life around and allow for the yogi to be at peace and harmony with all things.

There are many more Niyamas, meaning restraint, observance, restriction, or rule, that were passed down by other teachers of the Hindu religion, such as: Hri – remorse and modesty, Dana – giving without thought of reward, Astikya – faith in the path to enlightenment, Ishvarapujana – worship of the lord in daily meditation, Mai – cognition, Vrata – sacred vows, rules, and observances, Japas – recitation, chanting mantras daily. These are from other sources, but deserve recognition as they can also lead to happiness and good health. But for the remainder of this article, we will stick to Patanjali’s Niyamas.

Saucha means purity and is probably the most popular Niyama in today’s world. American has puritan roots which is why I believe that purity is something that American culture really struggles with. This is part of the reason that Asana is so important in our culture; purity of body is something that has been evasive for us. Pranayama is also very useful for this as it helps to cleanse the organs and bring newly oxygenated blood into the muscles. Svadhyaya, self-study, cleanses the impurities of the intellect; Bhakti, devotion, washes away shortcomings, failures, and impurities of the mind; and the Buddhi, cleansing of the intellect, will bring about an end to hatred, passion, anger, lust, greed, delusion, and pride. The final places of purity are within food, something that all people will have to find sources of clean, preferably organic, vegetarian food and within where you practice, to ensure that it is tranquil and pleasing and pest-free.

Santosa means contentment and is definitely something that has to be built and worked on. Depressed or anxious mind’s have difficulty concentrating and being peaceful. The yogi lacks nothing and this brings an unparalleled happiness into their life. When there is no external desire, the yogi becomes free to love every breath and second of life. The yogi realizes that he/she is blessed because during the course of life love and joy have made themselves available.

Tapas are austerities, or self-disciplines. This is known in the modern world as self-improvement and character building. Tapas means burning or consummation by heat so it is literally the burning of all distractions from realization of the divine. There are many Tapas: Brahmacharya and Ahisma are examples of Kayika tapas, or tapas of the body. These allow the yogi to become strong in body, mind, and character.

Svadhyaya means self-study or education and is education of the self. This truly allows for a deeper connection to the divine through knowing the subtleties of the intellect and of the ego, which will pull the yogi away from the ultimate goal. Studying divine literature and philosophy are extremely helpful to this. This will allow the devotee to solve difficult problems when they arise. Diversification of literature is also important and this helps us to learn that yoga is not a religion, but the science of religions, applicable to each one.

Isvara Pranidhana is dedication of one’s actions to the greater powers of this world. Faith in god will allow for despair to leave quietly and will restore vigor to the yogi and their practice. Addiction to pleasures destroys both power and glory because the senses will continue to run after the pleasures after they become attached. This is where true Bhakti begins, or dedication of intellect and will to the higher being. When the feelings of I or mine start to disappear, the soul has reached a stage of completed growth. An individual will glow brightest when their attention and actions are aimed towards god.

These five Niyamas from Patanjali will allow for the soul to shine brightly and the yoga practices to become integrated into everyday life for the yogi. This concludes the second limb of yoga, stay tuned for the third limb, the most physical of the eight, Asana.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga (Part 1: Yamas)

Yamas

Ashtanga yoga is more than exercise or meditation. It is a lifestyle, a way to live that allows for the body and mind to be free from pain and suffering and to be at peace. REAL yoga happens outside of the yoga room; Asana is only one part of real yoga, albeit a very important one. The true yoga begins off the mat, when you start interacting with your world, from strangers on a subway to your family and children at home. The 8 limbs of yoga is a guide to happiness, tranquility, peace, and ultimately freedom to transcend consciousness and realize god (enlightenment).

The first limb of yoga is no doubt the most foundational, the Yamas (ethical disciplines). These are universal principles, or rules for interacting with the world that lead away from stealing, violence, chaos, greed, and untruth. Essentially they are equivalent to the 10 commandments of Moses or the beatitudes of Jesus, but with the spin that these external rules will create room for detachment and constitute the first steps and foundation for yoga to expand within one’s consciousness. Yamas are like scaffolding that you are building your temple around, and keeps the temple sacred, clean, and free from outside destruction. In the same way the Yamas will keep your mind free from distraction and lead you to closer to enlightenment.

There are 5 parts of the Yamas, each of which is essential to success, though these concepts should be interpreted and applied to your own individual life. No two people will ever live the same life, therefore each individual must adapt the Yamas to their lifestyle. They are Ahisma (non-violence), Satya (truth), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (continence), and Aparigraha (non-coveting).

Ahisma, (‘a’ means not and ‘hisma’ means violence) or non-violence, is probably the most important of the Yamas and is truly very difficult to achieve. Violence is not only physical and can occur within the mind creating distance from creatures and people we are meant to love. Ahisma is far more than just pacifism, non-violence, non-killing, or eating only vegetables; it means finding love and appreciation for all beings. This almost always means eating vegetarian, unless you grow your own animals and treat them with respect and love. Many people interpret Ahisma as vegetarianism, which is important for yoga, but it is also about appreciation for all beings (even the smallest ones!). Then love and true gratitude can flow like water for all the life that surrounds you. Freedom from fear and anger are also intrinsic to this Yama, known as Abhaya (‘a’ means not and ‘bhaya’ means fear) and Akrodha (‘a’ means not and ‘krodha’ means anger). A yogi truly has no fear because of the pure love and focus he brings to his own life and he realizes his own divine connection to all beings as well as his own gift of the body, which allows the yogi to treat all beings with respect, love, and peace.

Satya means truth. The divine exists only in truth, so it is necessary for a yogi to become truthful in all things, to make room for the divine in their life. One of the biggest aspects of Satya is speech, though it is not limited to this. Ridiculing others, telling untrue stories, lying and abusing others are what we really want to avoid here. By rooting out falsehoods, yogis can live truthfully and without fear being at peace with the people around them. This will also contribute to a person’s charisma; when the speech is controlled and truthful, words become far more powerful. When the yogi ceases lying, falsehoods, and malice of speech, self-control is greatly increased and truth begins to drip from the yogi’s actions and life, giving him what he needs to survive and thrive.

Asteya (not stealing) is the desire to own something that another has. This is at the root of all yoga, detachment from the material world and possessions. We need to realize that you really don’t own anything; it is just bullshit you have told yourself to make your life easier. You borrow from this planet, from the people around you and really everything that you have ever received is a gift. Yogi’s do not gather or take possessions of others at all, and even his own possessions are minimal to allows for no distractions from his path. Jealousy, greed, and cravings are abandoned on the journey to the divine and once the yogi relinquishes possessions, the yogi will be given treasures and gifts that will sustain him. Each small gift will be a treasure beyond measure for it was given to the yogi directly from the source of life.

Brahmacharya (‘Brahma’ means the god of creation and ‘charin’ means constantly moving) is by definition living a life of restrain, celibacy, or oneness with god. Iyengar mentions in his book that the loss of semen leads to loss of life and talks a lot about living a celibate life, but I truly do not believe this is necessary at all for realizing the divine. I do believe it is necessary to temper desire, and to avoid meaningless sexual encounters, but most religions will agree that god is love and a yogi’s pursuit is to realize that god. Therefore, it is more about self-control, care, appreciation and love for the gift of sexuality and respect and commitment to the sacred gift it can bring to two people. Masturbation is also good for healthy prostate functioning,  (20 or so times a month will reduce the risk of prostate cancer) so I don’t think celibacy in any way is a necessity for union with the divine, though abuse of any sexuality will certainly lead away. This also applies to cleaning the spaces that you use, keeping the place where you practice yoga sacred, and performing your duties and jobs to the best of your ability.

Aparigraha (‘parigraha’ means hoarding, collecting) is avoiding collection or things that one does not truly need. These objects are really distractions for the yoga from the truth they are seeking and lead away from the divine. So even too much of one thing can be viewed as stealing from others. The yogi lives a life of minimalistic material possessions; the yogi does not value them because they are only borrowed and never truly his to begin with. The yogi should make his life as simple as possible so as to focus his time on the connection with the divine, then everything that he needs will come to him at the proper time. A true yogi is satisfied no matter what happens to him, for he appreciates the gift of his own life and trusts in god to provide him with whatever he may need for his journey back to god.

The Yamas are the first limb of yoga and can really help the yoga to live in harmony. It brings stillness, beauty, love, and peace to the yogi and happiness will thrive as a result. These are the foundations of living your yoga, living a life that is at peace with god, and ultimately finding fulfillment in life. This is the first of the 8 limbs of yoga, stay tuned for the Niyamas, the second limb of Ashtanga yoga.