1) Ahimsa: Non-violence. Replace harmful thoughts, speech and actions with that of loving kindness towards yourself and others. 2) Satya: Truth to be expressed in thought, word, and action. Be honest in your thoughts, words, and actions towards yourself and others. 3) Asteya: Non-stealing and non-covetousness. Curb desires for things that are not your own. Share the beauty of your thoughts, speech, actions, and material belongings to uplift others instead of stealing and hoarding them for yourself. 4) Brahmacharya: Abstinence from sexual intercourse when not married. Practicing monogamy and not having sexual thoughts about another person who is not your spouse. It is believed that a life built on celibacy and spiritual studies done by free will, increases energy and zest for life. Celibacy may sound like an unrealistic goal today. It may help to remember that brahmacharya is also about monogamy. When Brahmacharya is fully realized in marriage, the sex lives of both partners improve because the level of trust and devotion deepens their connection. It is important that the sexual activity is an expression based on the highest level of mutual respect, love, selflessness, and wisdom. 5) Aparigraha: Non-possessiveness or non-greediness. Replace the habit of hoarding with sharing. Do not take without giving back. If you want something, work for it. This builds appreciation for what you have. This will help minimize the insatiable desire to constantly consume. An appetite that is not wisely disciplined leads to personal ill health, financial debt of poor credit and destruction to the planet’s natural resources.The Greek God Apollo’s motto “Nothing in excess. All things in moderation” is a great way to describe Aparigraha. SECOND LIMB Niyama (Self-Purification by Self-Restraint and Discipline). The second limb helps refine your spiritual path. Discipline and self-restraint lead to a more orderly and productive life. From the perspective of ancient yoga, texts life is extremely short and we need to make the most of it while we can. This limb gives us guidance.There are five Niyamas: 1) Saucha: Purity of body and mind. When you develop Saucha (cleanliness), unwholesome thoughts that lead to foul speech and a sick body are cleared.Purity starts with your mind. Speech and action follow. So, the second limb directs you make it a habit to consume both food and mental stimuli that support well-being for yourself and the environment (humanity and the planet). This will allow destructive habits (hatred, greed, and delusion) to dissolve. 2) Santosha: Contentment with what one has. When you achieve Santosha (contentment), bonds to the material world are broken and authentic peace and happiness are established within.The lack of contentment is often based on a distorted perception of what one has versus what others have. You advance on the path to self-realization when you can be content with your lot, whether you sit on a throne of dirt or gold.. 3) Tapas: Self-discipline, sometimes associated with austerity, and being able to conquer the body and mind through mental control. Tapas literally mean “heat” or “glow”. This refers to a burning desire to accomplish one’s goal despite what obstacles may appear. The commitment to achieving a goal no matter how challenging it becomes builds character. However, note that the highest level of tapas is to complete one’s goal without a selfish motivation. When Tapas are attained, laziness is overcome and willpower is developed for future use. 4) Svadhyaya: Self-study that leads to introspection and a greater awakening of the soul and the source of creation; traditionally studied through Vedic scriptures.
Svadhyaya (self-study) leads to a greater awakening of your true potential, the root of one’s place in this world and how to live in harmony with the Earth and all its inhabitants. 5) Ishvarapranidhana: The surrender to God. When you accept that all things come from a higher power, pride and egocentric behavior are turned into humility and devotion. This strengthens your practice of all the limbs leading up to Samadhi (the eighth limb). Asana and Pranayama are the third and fourth limbs, and they relate to health and longevity, which allow us more time to achieve the ultimate goal of yoga, self-Realization or Enlightenment. The third and fourth limbs are important, as they prepare the body for meditation, which will be the key to calming your mind and discovering your true potential. THIRD LIMB Asana (Seat or Posture) Here is a question: If Gandhi is one of the greatest Yogis of our time, does that mean he can touch his toes or bring his foot behind his head? The answer is that it doesn’t matter. Gandhi’s ability to perform the asanas had very little to do with what he contributed to the world as a great yogi. The same applies to you. The practice of asanas is as much about training the mind as it is the body. How you approach your asana practice is often a reflection on how you approach life. Do you keep a sense of peace and calm when a challenge presents itself? Do you break down the impossible into smaller tasks making the whole possible through commitment to and reflection on each of the parts? Do you overcome self-perceived limitations on your own or do you accept support from others? Your practice of yoga poses should be characterized by two components: steadiness (Sthira) and ease (Sukha). Concentrating on the sound of your breath (Ujjayi, is the most commonly practiced breathing technique in yoga), can provide the steadiness. If you lose your breath, it is most likely because you are pushing too hard; ease off the pose and let the pose cater to the breath. There is no such thing as a perfect pose; let the poses come like the steps of a dance. Just like in dance, when we focus too much on the mechanics, we let go of the ability to enjoy the music. While the mechanics of alignment are important to prevent injury, never forget the final goal. Feel the music of life flow through you as you do each pose and your body will learn the moves naturally. There are more than enough postures to keep you busy for the rest of your life, so allow yourself to let go of ambition and enjoy the journey. Incorporating a combination of forward bends, back bends, twists, and inversions in your yoga session is optimal for health. Remember, too that asanas help prepare the mind and body for meditation, relieving tension and protecting the body from disturbances by purifying the nervous system. FOURTH LIMB Pranayama (Control of Breath) The English word spirit comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning “breath”. The breath and the mind are interconnected. Deep, rhythmic and fluid breathing will energize yet calm the mind and body. Rapid, irregular, and strained breathing produces a chaotic and disturbed mind. A calm mind will give you the metal space to make better decisions and a life in which you take control instead of feeling like a victim of circumstances. Breathing properly is fundamental to our very existence your brain feeds on oxygenated blood which is supplied with every inhale. If you are unable to draw oxygen into your body, you will become brain dead after a few minutes. On the other hand, proper exhaling helps dispel carbon dioxide. If your ability to exhale were impaired, you would most likely die due to the toxic build-up of carbon dioxide and poison. Stress tends to negatively affect breathing patterns, which contribute to a chain of effects that cause wear and tear on both your bodies nervous and immune systems. In fact, 90 percent of illness is stress-