By Hillari Dowdle, excerpts from an article from yogajournal.com
Chances are, you ponder who you are and where you are in life, accept the current realities as best you can, and yet still plan a path toward your ideal. Your yoga practice undoubtedly helps you on this journey. And the yoga tradition suggests more than just postures to aid your transformation. Centuries ago, the great sage Patanjali laid out a kind of map—one that suggests not just asana and meditation but also attitudes and behaviors—to help you chart your own course to contentment.
At first glance, Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, written in Sanskrit and interpreted in many ways, may seem esoteric and impenetrable. But the ancient manual is worth a closer look, because it contains essential advice for daily living. "Patanjali has offered us guidelines that will allow us to have enhanced emotional and mental well-being and a more fulfilling and meaningful life," says Joan Shivarpita Harrigan, a practicing psychologist and the director of Patanjali Kundalini Yoga Care. "The Yoga Sutra is specifically designed to lead to greater happiness and spiritual fulfillment for you and everyone around you."
Much is contained within this ultimate guide to virtuous transformation, including the eightfold path of classical yoga (or ashtanga yoga), which suggests a program of ethical restraints or abstentions (yamas), lifestyle observances (niyamas), postures (asanas), breath control (pranayama), withdrawal of the senses (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and absorption into the Divine (samadhi). They are designed to lead you, step-by-step, toward everlasting contentment.
If you've been practicing yoga for a while, you're familiar with asana, pranayama, and meditation. But you might not know much about the first two steps of the path: the five yamas and five niyamas. These are the ethical precepts, or core values, of yoga as well as its starting place—meant to be practiced before you do your very first Sun Salutation. They provide a recipe for living in the world with ease.
Dr. John Thomas Casey completed his graduate studies in Asian and Comparative Philosophy at the University of Hawai’i in 1996 and has taught courses in World Religions, Buddhism, and Sanskrit studies at numerous colleges in Southern California since 2000, including Loyola Marymount University, UCLA, UC Irvine, and presently at Chapman University. He has taught in the Yoga Philosophy certificate program since its inception in 2002, including Sanskrit language and textual studies of the Yoga Sutra, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Samkhya Karika. In recent years, he has been tapped as a philosophy instructor for Yoga teacher training programs and has conducted a variety of workshops and seminars through yoga studios and other private venues. Since 1998, Dr. Casey has sojourned to northern India and the Himalayas seven times as a teacher, student, pilgrim, and guide.