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by authors Cindy Senarighi and Heidi Green

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The Yamas and Niyamas – Yoga’s Ethical Foundation

April 27, 2017

Tags: Heidi, Yamas, Niyamas, Deborah Adele, Eight Fold Path

“The kingdom of heaven…you don’t die into it; you awaken into it.” Cynthia Bourgeault

The foundation of yoga practice, the first two limb's in Patanjali's eight fold path describing the spiritual technology of yoga, is a set of ethics and ethical practices called the yamas and niyamas. This ethical foundation is what distinguishes yoga as a spiritual practice, something more that just exercise. Often referred to as “jewels” the yamas and niyamas guide not only the physical practice of asana, but also have application for our lives off the yoga mat. There are many similarities between the yamas and niyamas and the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes of our Judeo/Christian faith. But rather than try to equate them, we invite you to explore how your faith beliefs inform and deepen your understanding of this yoga philosophy and visa versa. We have found affirmation and insights into our faith, when we study the yamas and niyamas.

The yamas describe right action or principles. Perhaps the most important yama is that of ahimsa, non violence. Ahimsa encourages us to practice non violence on our yoga mats by listening to our bodies and modifying yoga shapes so as to do no harm. Off the mat, ahimas encourages us to practice the Golden Rule--to do unto others as we would have others do unto us: to practice non violence in our relationships and towards the earth. The next two yama “jewels” are satya or truth, and asteya or nonstealing. Keeping our asana practice grounded in the truth of our own bodily limitations and not comparing ourselves with others, are ways that we practice satya and asteya on the mat. These jewels encourage us to delve deeply into our faith teachings and share what we find. In our relationships, satya and asteya encourage us to communicate truthfully, from our own experience and perspective. (more…)

Yoga's Eight Limbs: A Spiritual Pathway

April 23, 2017

Tags: Heidi, Eight Fold Path, Ashtanga, Patanjali, Limbs

Abide in me...as I in you. John 15

We have been writing off and on this year about yoga’s ethical foundation, the yamas and niyamas, and how they inform our Christian faith. But we thought we had better back up and put them in context. The yamas and niyamas are part of yoga’s eight fold path, or “limbs” of spiritual growth. Over the next few weeks we’ll be writing about each of the limbs and showing how, in total, they form a transformative spiritual path for all, regardless of whether you are churched, unchurched, or a none.

The yoga sage Patanjali, in the 2nd century of the common era, wrote a series of short aphorisms about the practice of yoga, referred to as the yoga sutras. The practice of yoga as a spiritual practice had originated thousands of years earlier, some say as early as 5,000 BCE. Patanjali’s sutras capsulized the wisdom from the ancient yoga practices, but did so in a particularly non-religion specific way, although the sutras clearly anticipate connection with the divine. There was vast religious diversity on the Indian subcontinent when Patanjali wrote the sutras. Clearly he saw yoga as a spiritual discipline benefiting all who practiced it, regardless of individual religious beliefs. (more…)

Components of a Faith-Based Yoga Practice

April 18, 2017

Tags: Heidi, Faith-based yoga, Patanjali, Yoga sutras

I had lunch recently with a busy working mom who had very kind words to say about the book. Specifically, she praised an aspect of the weekly devotions that I hadn’t considered: their brevity. She confided that she and her friends don’t have time to go to an hour-long yoga class, but long for and need the calm and affirmation of faith that she found in the devotions. In response to my friend's needs, here is an outline (below) describing the basic components of a faith-based yoga practice that is easily scaled for practices ranging from as little as ten minutes to an hour or longer. The practice components are derived from the eight limbs of yoga as described in the classic yoga sutras of Patanjali. This one is for you Katie!

Components of a Faith-based Yoga Practice

Be Present
Practice Presence. Give yourself permission to be fully present during your practice. Set a timer if needed. Even if you can only practice for ten minutes, imagine putting your cares and “to do’s” away for a time, perhaps inside of an imaginary cupboard. Assure yourself that you may return to them when you are done practicing.

Breathe
Practice Breath. Encourage your mind to focus by following several cycles of breath. Watch yourself inhale and exhale as you slow, deepen, and lengthen your breath. During practice, whenever your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to the present by returning your attention to your breath. (more…)

Sacred Silence

April 11, 2017

Tags: Cindy, Easter, Samadhi, Sacred Silence

In my family, we like to create traditions. One tradition my grandchildren especially like is, after seeing a movie or play each person gets uninterrupted time to say what they thought of the production. The only rules are, no judgment on the comments and no interrupting. We played this tradition out after a particularly powerful Passion Play that was so dramatic in its presentation, one felt they were really part of the story. When the time came for me to share my thoughts on the play I was awe-struck, stuck in a kind of sacred silence. I had entered the story as a 21st century believer and it caused me to pause in silence to consider what the story meant.

The Gospel accounts of the Passion of Jesus vary. The one that is considered the most problematic for folks is the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s Gospel ends abruptly with the disciples being told to go and tell the Good News that Jesus lives, but instead they leave in fear and silence, telling no one. I understand this response, I mean, who could believe such an unbelievable story let alone tell others, without seeming crazy. Yet, they did tell the story after pausing in silence, entering the story in their own way. That same invitation to make the story our own is available every Easter but rather than rushing to repeat someone else’s interpretation of the story we can pause in sacred silence to tell the story in our own way. (more…)