As we settle into the space of preparing for this amazing Yoga exploration, Assisi reveals the lessons of the week as we move. You cannot plan an event in Assisi – you prepare, and the event unfolds! As we wandered the streets this morning, preparing for our friends arriving tomorrow, we stumbled upon Padre Gianmaria Polidoro, the founder of Assisi Pax International. Assisi is one of the few places can you accidentally run into a great peace maker. (we will be visiting him again later this week)
He reminded us, this morning, that the journey of peace begins within. Shanti, Pace, peace – all the same idea of Universal peace. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali teaches this same concept, so beautifully and unendingly shared by Padre Gianmaria. Since we are in Assisi, it should be remembered that all of the teachings of St. Francis can be translated into one word, PAX (peace).
Patanjali, a great sage in the transmission of the teachings of Yoga, offers guidance for cultivating inner peace with the Yamas and Niyamas (among other practices). These practices are guidelines for caring for ourselves and others, the foundation of peace.
Entire books could be written about the two lists below, but here is a simple summary of the Yamas and Niyamas.
The Yamas (practices towards the outside world) are:
- Ahimsa – Absence of violence
- Satya – Truth
- Asteya – non-stealing
- Brahmacarya – celibacy (more in reference to restraint or self control than the way the word is used today)
- Aparigraha – non-grasping, or non-hoarding
These Yamas, taken together, constitute a vow, a degree of personal integrity and commitment to your own fundamental principles.
The Niyamas (practices towards the inner world, ourselves) are:
- Sauca – cleanliness
- Santosa – contentement (notice this is a practice, not a goal)
- Tapas – discipline
- Svadyaya – self reflection
- Isavara pranidanani – letting go of the things you cannot control (easy, peasy)
The Niyamas are a means to keep purifying the vessel that carries us through this life and keeping the mind directed. The last three also constitute the three practices of Kriya Yoga (Yoga of action).
The Yamas and Niyamas are the first two branches of Ashtanga Yoga (of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, not necessarily the popular flowing practice shared by Sri Patabi Jois). If you can practice no other part of the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga, practice the first, yamas. This, alone, is a foundation for supporting a peaceful world.
Shanti, Shanti, Shanti!