Yoga Part 3 – Yoga Philosophy

Sep 02

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-violenceahimsa – 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!)
  • Truthfulnesssatya – both with others and with yourself (and maybe why you find so many single yogis? Just kidding!)
  • Non-stealingasteya – 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-greedaparigrapha – 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:-

  • Personal observances niyamas – practising cleanliness (of body and mind), contentment and discipline. The act of self-study and the realisation that we individually are not the centre of the universe but instead are a part of something greater.
  • Physical Practiceasanas – The part most of us associate with yoga and according to BKS Iyengar: “This down-to-earth, flesh-and-bones practice is simply one of the most direct and expedient ways to meet yourself.”
  • Breath Workpranayama – breathing techniques and controls that can alter the chemistry of the body and mind.
  • Withdrawing the sensespratyahara
  • Concentrationdharana 
  • Meditationdhyana
  • Blisssamadhi
how yoga works

Luckily these days no-one is precluded from reaping the rewards of yoga. These philosophies are often woven into classes without you even realising. All can be practiced “on the mat” but it’s when we take them “off the mat” and into the world – into our daily lives, our work, our play and our relationships – that we start to really see the magic happen!

If you would like to learn more about these Yogic Philosophies: talk to your teacher, attend a Raja yoga class or grab yourself a copy of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. My personal favourite is the translation by Sri Swami Satchidananda (cool bit of trivia: he was the opening speaker the 1969 Woodstock Festival!); his simple explanations and useful commentary help us to apply these ancient sutras more easily to our current, modern world.


Nette xx


Jeannette Amy (Nette) Hopkinson (BSc Hons Sports & Life Sciences) is a certified yoga teacher and Oneness Blessing Giver based in Andalucia. Follow her on IG @nettenirmalayoga or find her on facebook @NirmalaYogaSpain

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