Yoga Sutras for the Twenty-First Century
The first documented history of the practice of yoga was written and developed over 5,000 years ago. It is said to have first been originated by an ancient civilization known as the Indus-Sarasvati from Northern India. They shared a collection of texts, referred to as the Vedas, which contained mantras, breathing techniques, and asanas used by their Vedic priests.
Fast forward to a few thousand years later, a man named Patanjali summed up these vedic texts into what is now known as the Yoga Sutras. These original texts contain one-hundred-and-ninety-six sutras divided between four chapters covering the goals, trials, and liberations of yoga. Ultimately, the yoga sutras are a guide for your spiritual journey through the practice of yoga.
Out of all 196 sutras, there is one section of text that is most favored and shared by almost every yoga teacher training program, academy, and guru out there. It is known as the Eight Limbs of Yoga. This text provides a set of observances and practices to help guide you on your spiritual journey.
So how can we apply a 1,700-year-old ancient text in today’s modern world? Below, you’ll find a millennial version of the Eight Limbs of Yoga to help you integrate this ancient wisdom into your everyday life.
1. Be Kind to Others
Pay attention to your surroundings. As you go about your day, acknowledge the way you talk to people, the things you say, the things you do, the things you wish for, and the things you waste. The next thing you say, make sure it’s truthful. The next thing you do, make sure it’s thoughtful and considerate of the people, plants, and animals around you. The next thing you take, make sure you’ve paid for it or earned it in some way. The next thing you toss, make sure it was thoroughly used or able to be recycled, reduced, or reused. The next time you want something, make sure you are thankful for what you already have.
2. Be kind to Yourself
Pay attention to yourself. Just as you acknowledge your surroundings, take note of your inner being. Stay clean. Purify your mind and body by watching your language, filtering the entertainment you watch, keeping up with hygiene, and removing all negativity and replacing it with positivity. Be grateful and content with the things, opportunities, and talents that you have right now. Persevere - maintain your will power and carry on when the going gets tough. Mistakes are lessons. Continue to learn and grow from your past choices. Have faith. Believe in a force that is beyond your grasp and worth all of your efforts.
3. Move your Body
Physical postures are a way to find acceptance within. Moving your body will connect your inner being to your outer being. Find a consistent physical practice to keep the connection between your mind and body.
Breath is your vital life force on this Earth. It’s your survival tool! Use your breath to balance your emotions, settle your organs, and make space in your body. Just breathe!
5. Look Inside
Now it’s time to check-in. Turn your attention away from the outside world and tune inwards. Channel your senses internally and try to understand yourself. What do you hear? What do you see? What do you feel? What do you want...
Train yourself to concentrate on one focal point. Allow your mind and body to come to come together for one purpose. Choose a mantra, an object, an activity, and focus all of your energy and concentration on that one chosen distraction. Teach yourself to tune into one thing, and one thing only.
7. Be Mindful
When you’ve accomplished a steady focus on one point, it’s now time to introduce a steady focus on nothing. It’s time to meditate. It’s time to come to complete stillness with awareness, self-care, focus, and movement behind you. Become so absorbed in your meditation that there is no thought, no emotion, and no distraction. There is nothing but stillness in your mind, body, and soul.
When all of the limbs come together, you are united in all three bodies. If there is ever a moment in your life when you are at complete peace in your mind, body, and spirit, you’ve experienced what it truly means to be whole with the world, the divine, and yourself.
While we might not all be aiming for eternal enlightenment, or have the time to meditate at five in the morning everyday, we most definitely have what it takes to incorporate these yogic inspirations into our modern lives. Becoming aware of these philosophies and understanding what they mean is the first step. From there, we can find ways to integrate them into our day-to-day lives. This counts just as much as fleeing to the Indian mountains for an eternity of meditation and self reflection. Intention is the most powerful contribution we can make and you can start right from your mat!