Is Western yoga still yoga? Is stretching yoga? I don’t know. I guess every yogi has to find their own way of navigating towards their own health and spiritual goals. As a philosopher I find it very important to me to have some kind of organised ideas about what I do and I find the approach of Guru B.K.S. Iyengar very helpful: practice all limbs of yoga in your physical practice of yoga, that is asana.
Let’s start with yamas:
1. Ahimsa – don’t hurt your body, don’t be violent towards it.
2. Satya – be truthful to yourself, work with the body and mind that you have, not the one you think you should have. Follow your values.
3. Asteya – don’t compare yourself to others in your physical and mental ability. This yama says about non-stealing but can be understood as not desiring what doesn’t belong to you.
4. Brachmacharya – don’t use asana to make yourself look more sexy and make people desire your body, neither look at other people in asana in a sexual way.
5. Aparigraha – not possessiveness, remember that practicing asana is just a tool to something much better, there is nothing wrong with enjoying your physical agility but don’t practice hard just to take another photo of your contorted body.
Do you have other ways of explaining and applying yamas in the asana practice? Be true to your own answers and practice, practice, practice.