Inevitably if one practices yoga for long enough, one starts to suspect that it has more to do with the mind than the body. As originally described in Sāṃkhya philosophy, we are all born with a particular combination of the three guṇas, “qualities” or “threads,” which determine our individual personality. These three psycho-physical components are rajas (activity or energy), tamas (inertia or stability), and sattva (equilibrium, balance or luminescence).
Guruji always used to say that ashtanga yoga is Patañjali yoga. Although there may not be explicit correlations between the sūtras and the ashtanga vinyasa method, the sequences of postures can be considered to embody these teachings in various ways. One way to explore this relationship is to consider the three ingredients of kriyā yoga discussed above, in conjunction with the fundamental components of ashtanga yoga.
I would now like to entertain the idea that this basis in polarity, itself, could contribute to the difficulty in understanding the yamas and niyamas and making sense of them within our lives. We could instead allow for a broader spectrum of possibility, rather than limiting our language, our thoughts, and thus our vision of reality to polar opposites, such as violence and non-violence, truth and untruth, celibacy or unconscious sexuality, purity or pollution. What if we made space for a reality to emerge that acknowledges the shades of grey, the rich complexities that are an inescapable part of being human?
If we deny or try to suppress a piece of who we are then we are not practicing yoga, we are not fulfilling our dharma (duty). Many Westerners misunderstand yoga - we think it is about withdrawal from the world, about abstinence, when in fact it should be a means to living more fully in the world, in all of our various individual capacities. The practice of yama and niyama is what situates a yoga practitioner in the world...