Patanjali was a sage who codified the 8 fold path of yoga and recorded it in his famous, the yoga sutras of Patanjali. Four chapters expounding a path to freedom. The next few blogs is a brief commentary on how to practice his 8 fold path of yoga in the dance of your life, on and off the dance floor. This blog covers the second step. Niyamas: Moving in ways that harmonise our inner landscape.
1) Cleanliness – Let the dance clean your inner landscape of unnecessary clutter. Again awareness is key here. If we are not present to tend our thoughts and let them move, we become mentally constipated. This is reflected in the body as “negative” sensations, lack of vitality, and moodiness. If you are aware you will be able to continue moving in your process without getting stuck. The dance is a means to clear the clutter of our minds and feelings. By becoming aware of the thoughts, feelings and emotions stirring, they are no longer just lying around waiting to stop you flowing in life, they are instead actively seen and moved until the flow is clear again. Thoughts unattended can actually pull you down into depression, stop you moving, enable negativity, comparison, and judgement to get in the way of being able to move.
“Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t crowded with ten thousand things,
this is the best season of your life.” – Wu-Men
2) Contentment – Allow your dance to create a sense of peace and equanimity inside your being. Observe and allow whatever you are resisting to be and allow it movement. There is nothing you need to do or not do other than allow each experience that arises to move. The other key in conscious dance is equanimity. Cultivating an inner attitude of moving with things as they are and not necessarily as we want them to be. As you deepen this quality you will find that nothing has to change about your outer or inner circumstances and you will suffer less. To move with the understanding that you have everything you need to dance your life already, within you. That what you are moving with is not a mistake or incorrect, but rather just another movement moving through you. The less attached to the form of the dance floor you are dancing on, the more free you will be to move on it. The dance floor is always changing, and your sense of peace and contentment is not attached to it’s form or the changes.
The great way is not difficult for those who have no preferences – Third Zen Patriach
3) Austerities – We use the dance as a means to also explore our edges, and push our of our comfort zone a little, so that we slowly allow ourselves to discover and own more of our real capacity. We push our edges of comfort and willingly do so to explore and expand our capacity and build up a tolerance for states that are edgy or uncomfortable. It is not about getting hight, addicted to a feeling or trying to find bliss. It’s courageous steps into our personal unknown as a means to deepen our wisdom and understanding of our true nature. A simple example would be to explore our energy levels when we feel tired. Can we move through that and find more energy?
4) Self study – Move with playful curiosity about the nature of your entire being. Opening up to being guided by your dance, allowing it to teach you about yourself. When we move from a place where we don’t know, it opens up possibilities of us being able to find out. Question and moving beyond our labels, stories and blind beliefs. Dance to explore the self and to seek wisdom and insight into your own unique nature. Dance the answers to the question, “Who am I?”
“For me the world is weird because it is stupendous, awesome, mysterious, unfathomable; my interest has been to convince you that you must assume responsibility for being here, in this marvellous world, in this marvellous desert, in this marvellous time. I want to convince you that you must learn to make every act count, since you are going to be here for only a short while, in fact, too short for witnessing all the marvels of it.”
― Carlos Castaneda
5) Surrender – Simply put, “The dance dances me.” Let go means let be. Allow yourself to follow movements and learn to let go controlling what it should look like, feel like, or be like. Rather stay open to possibility of allowing this super intelligent body to lead you in the dance, to move you where you need to go, to show you what you need to see. You will need to surrender many times in the dance.
A tree is unable to move from where it took seed it simply grows and finds a way to thrive in the environment. Over time the space shapes the tree. The tree is no less beautiful for having grown sideways in strong winds. It still thrived. We too are able to thrive in whatever space we find ourselves, whatever the conditions. The Niyamas, help us to thrive in the space, inside and out.
So the first two steps, Yamas (see previous blog) and Niyamas lay the foundation for the journey of awakening through our own movement. If the foundation is solid, when we begin to have experiences that are outside of our known universe, then we will be able to move with more grace either being established in or reminding ourselves of these two steps on the path.