The final three Yamas are Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha – Sanskrit terms which again can be interpreted by the individual. Recently there has been a lot of discussion in the yoga world about what is and what is not appropriate to embrace from other cultures. The Yamas and Niyamas go back thousands of years, as does the Sanskrit language which I personally feel is a beautiful and eloquent way of viewing the world. If we are learning the history, the context, being respectful, considering viewpoints and making interpretations in order to better ourselves and every living thing around us then I believe that has to be a positive act.
Asteya – Non-Stealing
How do we interpret not stealing in a yoga practice?
Don’t steal your positivity and turn it into negative feelings about yourself or your practice.
Don’t steal your energy – challenge yourself when the time is right but if your body craves rest then listen to it’s calling.
Be inspired but don’t steal postures or ideas that are not in line with your own authenticity.
Do steal yourself away from the television, your phone, your distractions to get on your mat – It’s worth it 😉
Brahmacharya – Right use of energy
Over time, yoga practice starts to become about an inward journey, one where we begin to switch off from the external distractions around us and slowly form awareness of the subtle signs from our body; the way that we need to move, when to stretch, to hold tension and when to let go. Everyone’s yoga journey is an individual journey and there are no rules, not one person or fixed idea that we must adhere to or obey. Brahmacharya can be about abstaining from destructive thoughts and processes and instead, doing the things that will help to nurture, nourish and heal us.
When we are in the mind-set of acting from within rather than in order to look good, fit in or please others then our relationship towards ourselves and to those around us can change significantly. As we practice, as we move, as we take time for ourselves, then we can start to move closer to being more kind and more loving – no moving to live in a cave in the mountains required.
Aparigraha – Non-attachment
The most common worry for people new to yoga is the flexibility fear. The belief that yoga is only for bendy, experienced athletics and that if you can’t touch your toes in class then you’ll be sent right to the back. Unfortunately, in a break of the illusion, when I roll out of bed in the morning and begin Surya Namaskara, I can’t touch my toes either. But is that what my body needs? Does my body need to be pushed and stretched to the limit so that I can live up to some kind of yoga ideal? Or does my body need to ease into the postures gently, to sometimes twist and yawn a little before I move?
In a traditional Ashtanga Mysore practice, we learn each new, individual posture depending on the limitations of the body, our readiness for a different challenge and the strength and flexibility we may have gradually acquired before reaching this point. Without Aparigraha, frustration can arise. Likewise, with any other style of yoga class, perhaps when we look around and see more advanced students or when we need to modify a certain posture. We may push our bodies and our minds anyway, trying to reach an unattainable or idealised place before we are ready which can result in injury or a feeling of vulnerability. Non-attachment can be accepting where we are in our own journey and not striving for something we don’t need in that moment.
As well as yoga on the mat, as soon as we leave class and take a look at our phones or walk past the shops on our way home, the image of yoga brand is being sold to us at all times. I really do wish that I could buy a pair of fancy yoga pants and be immediately amazing at handstands, but unfortunately I have realised that it is not going to happen. Of course, nice clothes are always allowed but the only thing that is really going to get me there is consistent practice and actually, letting go of the idea of how much better my life will be if I can do it.
What this means fundamentally is that yoga can be practiced anywhere by anybody because the only thing that you really need is you.