It’s easy for my eyes to glaze over when I think about the ethics of yoga. I can easily start to feel guilty about yet more things that can’t fit in to the schedule, or that I really should be better at doing. However, when I realised Niyama- the second ethical limb of yoga is actually a form of Radical Self Care, it became easier to engage with ways I might incorporate these teachings into my daily life.
The first two limbs of yoga, Yama and Niyama encourage us to consider our foundation. Yama encourages us to consider the attitudes we have to the world around us. Niyama encourages us to consider our relationship to ourselves. This is where the radical self care comes in.
Saucha: cleanliness and purity, is not just another call to make sure we turn up to yoga class with clean undies and deodorant. It’s a reminder that the home we inhabit is the body, and that in its essence it is pure. Diet, thoughts and toxins can all influence our experience of this purity so that we become more distant from our pure essence. Saucha is a reminder to connect with this whenever we can, to eat well, sleep well and stay away from nasty chemicals.
Santosha: experiencing peace and contentment is again, a call to remember that this is our birthplace, not something we have to struggle for. In this modern time of achievement based living we always strive for something better- bigger house, more well-paid job, newer gadgets. Santosha is radical in that it reminds us that we already have all we need to be content. We just need to shift our perception to see it.
Tapas, encourages us to live with the light of ourselves burning bright. To bring enthusiasm and effort to the things that we do. To see our own inner light, nurture this and tend to our own flame. I love the quote from Howard Thurnman to remind me of Tapas: "Don't ak what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive"
Svadhyaya: self study; is a reminder to always take opportunities to learn, grow and understand ourselves. It is easy to react with our shame bodies when we make mistakes, or feel disconnected in some way. This radical self care practice instead reminds us that we are constantly learning our whole lives, and that we can continually reflect on our behaviour. Not in a judgemental beat ourselves up kind of way, but in a way that lovingly allows us to connect more closely to our expression of essence.
Ishvara Pranidhana: celebrate the divine is also a radical practice. Encouraging us to celebrate the divine, it does not prescribe any particular religion or world view, but instead invites us to celebrate the miracle of life itself. Rejoice that we are alive, that we are here, that we are part of the rich tapesty of life, with all our quirky foibles we are still pure, peaceful beings of light, capable of self awareness and self reflection. What a great thing to celebrate!
If we give time in the day to eat well, experience gratitude for what we have, to do the things we have to do with passion and enthusiasm, to always learn and celebrate the miracle of life, then we are caring for ourselves in a very deep way.
Thanks Patanjali for the reminder.