In the eight-fold path of classical yoga as described by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, the Yamas and Niyamas are the bedrock upon which Yogis grow their practice. The first limb, the Yamas are non-violence, truthfulness, refraining from stealing, sexual restraint and non-covetousness (Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya, and Aparigraha).
While modern yogis can easily get behind most of these basic ethical concepts, the one that we are least comfortable with is Brahmacharya. It is often translated as celibacy but that is a simplistic and impractical definition. Brahmacharya is containment of the vital life-force and not mistaking pleasure on the sensual level for fulfillment. Thus, the commentators warn of the pitfalls of unrestrained sexual activity and objectifying one’s sexual partner as a source of fulfillment.
In order to achieve the state of Yoga and not misidentify our expansive consciousness with the limited sense of self (Ego), one must curb activities that gratify the grosser urges – violence, stealing, deceit, sexual exploitation and coveting.
Where, the Yamas deal with how the aspiring Yogi relates to others, the second limb, the Niyamas deal with how the Yogi cultivates his or her own practice. Each limb deepens the internal progression of awareness, as the yogi’s consciousness becomes more refined and capable of understanding the subtle layers of reality.
December 5, 7:30-8:45p
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