Yoga on the mat is fabulous for our health and well-being but it is actually only a small part of the total yoga practice. Traditionally it was expected that a novice yogi would already be proficient in being “a decent human being” before beginning yoga. To quote academic Alan Watts “we don’t teach yoga to baboons!”
According to the ancient sankskrit texts – The Yoga Sutras – an aspiring yogi should be already be practicing:-
- Non-violence – ahimsa – First Do No Harm… not to yourself, to others or to anything at all – with your thoughts, words or deeds (This is why you find so many vegan yogis!)
- Truthfulness – satya – both with others and with yourself (and maybe why you find so many single yogis? Just kidding!)
- Non-stealing – asteya – not just material possessions but ideas, time and energy or even just taking more than we really need. We can steal from ourselves as well, by living too much in the past or in the future.
- Self Restraint/Moderation – brahmacharya – is often simply translated as celibacy. While being celibate certainly prevents us from expending sexual energy unwisely, we also must cultivate that energy. This can be done through celibacy or through some tantric practices. (Oh, now I have your attention!)
- Non-greed – aparigrapha – being happy with what you have. Not grasping for more or hoarding possessions.
These together are known as the yamas and are the first step on the 8-limbed path to Yogic Bliss.
The next steps (in order) are:-