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  • Writer's pictureKarin Ebner

Why is Yoga a Spiritual Journey?

Updated: Jan 21

The practice of Yoga invites us to become whole again. Yoga - literally translated - means to unite, to join, to harness. What are we uniting? Beyond connecting body, mind, and spirit, it is a profound expedition to rediscover our connection to Source. While some may shy away from these spiritual connotations, these teachings extend an invitation to all as they are timeless and apply to everyone, regardless of their belief system. Here's an invitation to see the practice of yoga through a different lens.



Did you know that the Practice of Yoga consists of eight components, known as the 8-limbs of yoga? These principles provide a framework for conscious living, transcending religious boundaries and embracing all beliefs. Collectively called Ashtanga Yoga*, they extend an invitation to live life fully, filled with peace and joy, and from a place of authenticity, providing a foundation from which we all can live a life of purpose. Before we even step onto the mat to practice yoga postures, we are invited to explore these profound teachings with the Yamas and Niyamas, the first two limbs — and the foundational elements of our yoga practice. These principles, also referred to as "Ways of Right Living," are simple observances that guide our interactions with the world, and ultimately care for our ourselves, propelling us towards the ultimate goal of yoga — becoming whole again.


The Yamas and Niyamas form the core of our yogic journey, containing three powerful teachings that guide us on the path of awakening. It is a journey that empowers us to live consciously, rooted in freedom — and illuminating the path towards knowledge. Living authentically, discovering our purpose, and honoring our unique course in this life, rather than conforming to external expectations, fosters true inner joy, happiness, and peace — enabling us to embrace a life filled with abundance.


If we live authentic lives, discover our purpose, and follow our own unique journey in this life - rather than conforming to how others live or how our family, community, or society want us to live, then we can find true inner joy, happiness, and peace - and live our lives filled with abundance.

A path to awaken to the divine essence within us


Cultivating Compassion


The first of the profound vows calls us to contemplate Ahimsa. It translates to non-violence, non-harming, and compassion. But what does it truly mean to embody non-violence and compassion? While the traditional interpretation involves leading a vegetarian life, Ahimsa extends beyond merely ceasing acts of hate, killing, or war. It calls for an examination of the subtle ways we inflict harm in our daily lives. As we integrate Ahimsa into our practice, both on and off the mat, it unveils the more nuanced ways our daily existence is filled with harm. Consider the world we inhabit today. Our treatment of our bodies lacks compassion – self-criticism pervades our thoughts, and we extend it to others. Emotional violence towards oneself and others permeates our lives. For many, experiencing self-love untainted by ego remains elusive. Since childhood, our encounters shape us physically, emotionally, and mentally, fostering feelings of hurt and unlovedness. Gazing into the mirror, we utter unkind words, scrutinize our perceived "flaws," and even our cinematic narratives abound with criticism and violence. Ultimately, our lack of compassion extends to the planet and its inhabitants, revealing a seeming predilection for destruction. It appears as though humanity is in conflict with nature. At the core, whether conscious of it or not, we all grapple with the state of our planet, bearing the weight of the world on our shoulders. Gradually, we close our hearts to the world, internalizing unkind remarks from others until we believe them, culminating in the closure of our hearts to ourselves. Many of us carry a burdensome backpack, filled with unresolved issues and experiences that we struggle to release and move beyond, negatively impacting our posture and overall emotional and mental well-being. However, amidst these challenges, there is hope. We retain the power to transform life on this planet. An alternative path exists — contemplate the ways in which the practice of Ahimsa can revolutionize the world! Ahimsa implores us to lead lives imbued with kindness and compassion in all aspects. How do we communicate with others? How do we treat them? How do we treat ourselves? Through the practice of Ahimsa, can we rediscover the capacity to open our hearts? Can we learn to release the accumulated hurt and embrace a love that extends even to those who have caused us pain or harm? Can we extend this love to those who perpetuate violence and destruction in the world, even when our perspectives diverge? Can we, through the lens of Ahimsa, reclaim a profound love for ourselves? The opportunity for transformation still exists — a chance to embrace Ahimsa and reshape our world.





Transformation unfolds through the constructive power of Ahimsa, where destruction paves the way for renewal. The journey toward this profound change may be lengthy for some, but it is the key to transforming our world, bringing about change, and fostering healing. While we begin with this transformative journey on the mat, healing our physical bodies, the essence of yoga extends beyond the body, urging us to release pain by turning inward and spending time in contemplation. Embracing Ahimsa involves not only self-love but also extending love to all, especially to those who may mistreat us. It teaches us the interconnectedness of all beings, emanating from the same source. To lead a life of compassion and non-violence, we must first treat ourselves with kindness. The capacity to unconditionally love others and acknowledge their inner light stems from a foundation of self-love. True self-love isn't rooted in egoistic claims of superiority but is cultivated by mindful reflection, awareness of our thought patters, and caring for our whole Selves by integrating or layers to become whole again. The nature of our relationships and the individuals we attract into our lives mirror our self-perception. Embracing self-love involves nurturing our well-being without attempting to force change upon ourselves and others. Happiness is found in acceptance of our present selves, diminishing the persistent need to be right and in control. As we progress on the path of compassion, piece by piece, the urge to control gradually diminish.


Embracing Truthfulness


The second ingredient to our practice is called Satya, or Truthfulness. We are invited to live our lives from a place of honesty. Starting with our actions, but also, we are being challenged to live our lives from a place of authenticity. That’s where the real work begins. The practice of Yoga invites us to look at our integrity. Before we can practice Ahimsa, kindness, toward ourselves, we need to be real with ourselves. It can be a challenge because through our thought patters the ego gets involved, and it can keep us from seeing, feeling, and hearing the truth within us. The postures we practice on the mat can tell us a lot about ourselves. We just have to get quiet and listen to the voice deep within. We are then invited to communicate truthfulness through our speech, our writings, our gestures, and our actions. In a life established in truth, the results are subservient. Satya offers a perfect union with Ahimsa - we have the opportunity to live our lives with profound love. But are you conscious of your actions? What happens when you feel you need to defend yourself? When the truth might hurt someone else? Would you try to deny the truth to protect your loved ones and yourself? And ultimately, do you really know who you are, deep inside? Have you connected with the Truth that sits deep within you?





Giving Instead of Taking


When we begin to honor and learn from the first two ingredients of yoga, compassion and truthfulness, a beautiful trinity forms together with the third component of our yoga practice - Asteya. This third ingredient translates to non-stealing and teaches us that all wealth comes to those established in non-stealing. One who is trustworthy naturally has everyone’s confidence. A life rooted in non-taking (that which does not belong to us) guides our tendencies to look outward for satisfaction, which is caused by dissatisfaction. But again, let’s dive a little deeper to see if there are any changes we ourselves have an opportunity to make in our lives. Noncoveting - can you resist the desire for that which doesn’t belong to you? There is a difference between visualizing to manifest desires, and feeling jealous for what others have that we want - living life from a perspective of lack. And what are some other ways in which we might steal... how about taking more than you know you need or can ever use - for example when something is free? Sometimes we even unconsciously steal from others by desiring that which is not meant to be for us. Or, we might be unaware that we steal energy from others. We steal from the earth with the overuse and exploitation of its resources. And, we steal from ourselves - we even steal from our opportunity to have the right to live the life we really want.


This is why we practice yoga. We are invited to learn from these challenges as we dive deeper into the practice and become wiser.


Can you imagine living life from a place of true strength? Knowing your true Self which lacks nothing and is pure love? It starts with self-compassion and learning to love ourselves again. And then extending it towards others, even those who are unkind. Caring about the humane treatment of all beings. Operating from a place of honesty. Choosing truthfulness. Not taking more than we need. Not needing the most, the best, the greatest. Not desiring that which is not meant to be ours. We are given a beautiful opportunity to lead our lives with #Ahimsa #Satya and #Asteya, the first 3 Yamas that guide us on how we can contribute to making this world a better place. And it starts with us. But it takes a certain inner fire, deep inside of us, to walk this path. Do you have it?






(*they are a part of the teachings known as the #YogaSutras written by Sage Patanjali, which Sri K. Pattabhi Jois - founder of what we know as Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga today - taught as well.... hence the name of that practice.)



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