I am is an infinite awareness without limited labels of personalizing. In sanskrit the word means 'so ham', or I am that. Yoga is the scientific process devised 5000 years ago to arrive at this union of the individual to the whole. The mastery of the mind has never been researched as it has been by the yogis through their own self practice, which is why yoga is a self practice. To arrive at the I am requires a desire for truth and is not for the weak hearted. Courage, conviction, and self-discipline are a must to see all the games we play with ourselves through our mind, senses and ego.
However, some yoga practices are incomplete. For example, the western practice of going through postures is just the third limb. Without the first two limbs you can actually cause yourself more harm than good, since you are expanding your consciousness without an adequate vessel to hold it.
The eight limbs of yoga
Yoga's eight limb-approach, according to the Patanjali sutras, is to arrive at a state of I am known as 'Samadhi'. Yoga is a scientific process to arrive at the I am state-of-being awareness. However, it is important to note that it is not religion or dogma. It starts with the simplicity of conduct with outer world and oneself. This is the foundation, known as Yamas and Niyamas, or the first 2 limbs. Too often in the western teaching of yoga we forget these. But without this, it is like building a structural foundation on sand, guaranteed to fall.
Listed below are these 10 aspects to implement in our lives through yoga. The 5 Yamas and 5 Niyamas are a prerequisite to the witness of the I am and living mindfully with awareness. One's conduct to oneself and others is to hold to this ideal to avoid suffering. Through this, we become conscious of our thoughts, actions, and words, and live with awareness. At a Yoga I Am retreat, we do not ignore the first two limbs of Patanjali, as they are like learning to walk, and form a crucial part of the yoga program.
Yamas (restraints to the outer world)
- Ahimsa: non-violence, non-harming
- Satya: truthfulness, honesty
- Asteya: non-stealing
- Brahmacharya: walking in awareness of the highest reality, continence
- Aparigraha: non-possessiveness
Niyamas (self-regulation with oneself)
- Shaucha: purity of body and mind
- Santosha: contentment
- Tapah: training the senses
- Svadhyaya: self-study and reflection on sacred words
- Ishvara pranidhana: surrender
Our validation requires only ourselves, and yoga is the access point to all of our self, if we allow it to be wholly applied as the full eight limbs. In other Yoga I AM programs we also cover the other limbs, such as meditation. Your being is the divine life force itself, and through your own self-inquiry to who you are can enable this awakening realization. It is not forced, but a natural process of realization of the truth, and can only happen if the quest for truth is a burning desire to live without the ego being in control of your words actions and thoughts. This clearly requires a discipline such as yoga to show us the way to Who I am.