This New Year, I invite you to join me in an exploration of the yamas and niyamas: ten yogic principles designed to help us live better, more peaceful lives.
Each week of the January to April yoga session will focus on a different yama or niyama, and I am adding two free offerings:
The first week of yoga classes in January will be free.
I will be hosting free, optional virtual get-togethers on Saturdays at 10:00 a.m. where we can meet and discuss how the yama or niyama of the week applies to our lives: when we have employed it, when we haven’t employed it and how we hope to apply it. These get-togethers will be positive and supportive.
Scroll down to see the schedule and information on how to join these and other offerings.
While the yamas and niyamas have often been likened to the “ten commandments” of yoga, they could be more accurately described as the “ten suggestions” or “ten invitations.“ Unlike the codes of conduct set out by many religions, they do not carry a moral imperative, there is no penalty for not following them, and you are not expected to simply accept them as truth. They are practices that ancient yogis discovered helped them to live better lives, and students of yoga are invited to try them out to see how they work for them.
When I took my yoga teacher training, we would focus on one yama or niyama for a two-week period and then switch to the next and so on. I found working through these practices, which ultimately spanned 20 weeks, to be the most impactful portion of my training. I learned so much about myself, not all of it pleasant. I felt like I was a decent person: I was kind to people; I was honest; I didn’t steal, etc. However, I was shocked by how often I said mean things to myself, by how often I twisted the truth, just slightly, to better support my position, by how often my “borrowing” of things bordered on “stealing” as I forgot to return them.
“Arg,” you are saying, “Why would I want to do this? Won’t this just make me feel bad about myself?” Well, let me reassure you that the very first of all of the yamas and niyamas is ahimsa: compassion. All of the practices, all of our realizations, are to be guided and tempered by compassion. We do the practices out of kindness, out of a desire to make our lives better, more easeful.
While it can be unpleasant to notice certain things about ourselves, isn’t it still better to notice rather than to go through life unaware of our motivations? How often do we find ourselves regretting something we have said or done? Confused about why we said or did a certain thing or about why we are feeling a certain way? How often do we wish we were a little kinder, more disciplined, etc.? There is little we can do to make our lives better without being aware of what is actually going on in our bodies, hearts and minds. Once we are aware, we can explore ways of making our lives better and easier, which may well involve engaging with one of the yamas or niyamas.
I should also mention that it can be hilarious to notice certain things about ourselves. I am constantly amused by human behaviour, including my own: “Did I actually just call myself a ‘stupid head’ for misplacing my keys? What am I, six?” “Did I actually just throw a temper tantrum at my kids because I was tired of them throwing tantrums at me?”
When we approach the yamas and niyamas with a sense of kindness, openness and a healthy sense of humour, engaging with them can be a truly liberating, joyful experience.
I do hope that you will join me in exploring these practices in January to April 2021, either by attending yoga classes (schedule below or click here to register) or by attending the free weekly get-togethers on Saturday mornings (email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain the link) or both.
 Yes, that is a word. I just looked it up. In fact, it might be my new favourite word as it perfectly describes the way I want my life to be.