Meet the TTs | Niyamas

niyama 1.jpg

The second limb of the eight-limbed path of Ashtanga Yoga is Niyama. Whereas the first limb (Yama) teaches yogis specific things to avoid, similar to Lama Je Tsongkhapa's first principal path of Buddhism (renunciation), the Niyamas outline how we move forward to progress toward our goal of enlightenment, or complete Self-realization. To share the teachings of these observances, Anna, Janina and Muir offer their thoughts on Santosha (contentment), Svadhyaya (Self-study) and Tapas (discipline). 

With reverence,

Allison Joy Phillips, Director of Yoga


SANTOSHA | Shared by Anna Kuhn

Santosha is contentment with the way things are at exactly this moment in time. Especially in New York, “contentment” can be misinterpreted to mean lazy, unambitious or apathetic. However, my experience is that “contentment” is an antidote for the aforementioned and is the most solid base we can offer ourselves to grow and from which to receive higher ideas.

So, how do we pour that foundation? We can start by finding a sweet spot between FOMO (grasping) and JOMO (wishing for “other”). Eff ‘em both! Contentment comes from the practice of:

Recognizing the fear or joy itself...or inspiration, or suffering, or pleasure, or pain, or ecstasy, or wonder...that the actual surroundings and circumstances of an experience provoke (in other words, put down Instagram for a second, friend, and look up!)

Finding a reason to be thankful for each experience and feeling the resulting chemical impulse (there's always something you can at least learn from...everything. Really. Everything.)

Giving that emotion and situation a little kiss on the forehead and releasing it back into the ether when you've made your peace. 

The negative teaches us, the positive rewards us, but neither will stick around forever (or even for the next full hour, probably). The repeat process (practice) of catching, thanking, and releasing keeps us humble, grounded, and receptive to what’s really out there...and ultimately to what can be.

I’ll end with my favorite guiding principle around this concept:
“When you finally achieve humility, no one can take anything away from you.” -Radhanath Swami

 

SVADHYAYA | Shared by Janina Fisher

The fourth Niyama (observance), Svadhyaya is the practice of "Self-study" or literally, "one's own reading, lesson." 

A related idea that resonates deeply with me is one I learned from Michael Hewett: "The one thing we know, is that we do not know." For me, Svadhyaya is exactly this. When I begin to unwrap who I am it is so entwined with ideas and stories ...where does the story end and I begin? 

I am also reminded of something taught by Gina De La Chesnaye: "You are so much more powerful than you know." It took me a while to unpack this, but I believe it to refer to an unknown transcendence of something larger than me that I am part of.  I think in modern, western life this part of Svadhyaya is hard to understand but is an essential aspect of understanding oneself.

 

TAPAS | Shared by Muir Palmer

Isn’t that the word for small plates of tasty Spanish cuisine? Oh, self-discipline, you say. This is my Achilles heel.

I consciously choose self-discipline and growth but I eventually fall into self-sabotage. The gremlins in my head distract me with shiny objects, lure me to stay in bed another 15 minutes, and lead me down the path most taken. 

Many of my friends have said to me “I love how you live your life in the moment.” But that’s not always a good thing. I am the gal who too many times has chosen to forsake future rewards for momentary pleasures. When I do set an intention or goal that requires self-discipline over a period of time, I usually meet this goal with some temporary success, but it’s mind boggling (or is it?) how easily good intentions can go off the rails.

Since beginning yoga teacher training at Three Jewels, I feel the heat - in a good way. It’s subtle, it sneaks up on me, and shows me, through my own actions (and reactions) that I am transforming. Not just my body from the physical asana practice, but my state of mind, my open heart, my patience, my contentment. It’s beaming internally loud & clear and I feel it.  The spiritual effort I am putting into my training is a catharsis I have been yearning for my entire life. 

                      Anna Kuhn              

                      Anna Kuhn              

                        Janina Fisher

                        Janina Fisher

                 Muir Palmer        

                 Muir Palmer        

Meet the TTs | Yamas

Image: Camilla Confrini photographs Petra Ondrusova

Image: Camilla Confrini photographs Petra Ondrusova

Teacher training marked a period of deep revealing in my life. There is a quality of shedding that comes with intent study of the self and consistent practice. The endeavor is not free from uncomfortable revelations and, as Michael Hewett often reminds us, the breakdown is usually followed by the breakthrough. Continuing our presentation of the yogic yamas, our teachers-in-training share their personal realizations about asteya (not stealing), brahmacharya (right use of energy, especially sexual energy) and aparigraha (not grasping). Kristen, Montes and Reda offer their thoughts for your contemplation and meditation on the next three ethical restraints pivotal to living in yoga.

In Lightening,

Allison Joy Phillips, Director of Yoga

____________

ASTEYA

Shared by Kristen Huff

When I first heard of this yama, I thought, “Easy. I don’t take things that don’t belong to me.” Then my teacher offered several, much more meaningful interpretations of asteya beyond simply not stealing. Aren’t I taking someone’s time when I am late? Aren’t I unfairly accepting someone’s trust when I make a promise that I don’t keep? Aren’t I robbing health, safety, and joy from my future self when I don’t take care of myself today? Aren’t I denying myself endless experiences - maybe even a taste of bliss - when I limit what is possible through fear, or through my habitual response? As we contemplate all the different ways we can practice asteya we find there is great depth to this yama.  

 

BRAHMACHARYA

Shared by Montes

When I first encountered the yamas, I thought, "Oh, here we go again! Another set of rules and way of controlling my life." But I now see the yamas as a more compassionate way of interacting with ourselves and with our communities. I feel attracted to the idea that the yamas allow energy maintenance. Learning about brahmacharya, I realized that impulsivity and excess has created patterns, really vicious habits that affect the way I perceive and experience life. I want to be clear and at ease energetically. I want to have more compassion with myself in order to be more perceptive of the meaningful and important moments in my life at home, with family and friends, especially by building healthier boundaries at work and with strangers. I definitely see a shift in my way of thinking and interacting with others. I notice that I enjoy keeping certain things private about myself. I find I have been more patient with myself and more in tune with my partner. I negotiate first with myself about my own priorities, instead of trying to only negotiate with the consequences of weak or ignorant behavior. 

 

APARIGRAHA

Shared by Reda Charafeddine 

I’m a grasper. I love a good ol’ choke hold, not so much on things, more for ideas and principles. I am possessed by the demon of humanity’s conduct. I am checking on the idea that I am living in a society that is delusional. 7.6 billion people and growing creates a deep disdain for breeders and children. We hate everyone we don’t understand, then I hate those who hate. Cult-worshiping of celebrities and media…I just shut it off. Which isn’t such a bad thing.

I’m so attached to the idea that we need to change that I become vengeful. I want to see it all burn just so we get a chance to build again. However, I don’t think we would get it right the next time. This leads me to a spiral of nihilism. I become a tyrant because of my greed for change. I’m learning to loosen my grip enough so I’m not debilitated by attachment but not so much that I become complacent.

                      Kristen Huff               

                      Kristen Huff               

                          Montes                

                          Montes                

                 Reda Charafeddine        

                 Reda Charafeddine