The Philosophy and Practice of Yoga and AntiRacism: The Yamas and The Niyamas
by Sonia Roberts
The Philosophy and Practice of Yoga
The Ashtanga Yoga System, the eight-limb path of yoga, comes from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
In yogic philosophy, the Yamas and Niyamas are the first two limbs of the 8-fold path, or Ashtanga yoga. The first five guidelines are called Yamas, a Sanskrit word that means “restraints.” The last five are called Niyamas, a Sanskrit word that means “observances.”
The other six limbs of the 8- fold path are Asana, or postures; Pranayama, or breath control; Pratyahara, or sense withdrawal; Dharana, or concentration; Dhyana, or meditation; and Samadhi, or a state of unity.
The path of evolution requires restraint (Yamas) + observation (Niyamas) + action and practice of all eight limbs. Leading to liberation, joy and justice for all.
The Yamas, or restraints, are guidelines that teach you how to live in peace and harmony with the world. Following these guidelines allows you to see beyond your own desires into the collective good.
Practicing the Yamas offers a core of mindful anti-racist practices, self-reflection practices, and provides healing and liberation.
The Niyamas, or observances, are guidelines that teach you how to live in peace and harmony with yourself.
Following these guidelines allows you to become more mindful of recognizing racism within yourself and in the world. Practicing the Niyamas guides you toward letting go of limiting, harmful and racist behaviors and beliefs.
These guidelines, the Yamas and Niyamas, serve as your life’s anti-racism blueprint. Following the guidelines will help you to cultivate an anti-racism practice. They help you to trust the process of discovering your true authentic Self and to align with your life’s purpose. You must nurture your soul, your personal and spiritual growth daily.
The Yamas teach you how to truly live in harmony with the world. The Niyamas increase mindfulness, and open you up to all the possibilities and full potential of your life. You are in the process of clearly seeing systemic and institutionalized racism. Now you have a solid blueprint to build a strong foundation for inner and outer change. As you practice, you will continue to build a deep belief in yourself and in your ability to create positive change. What is your life’s legacy? What is your dharma? What is your vision for justice and equality? Follow your truth with an open mind and an open heart.
Following your life’s anti-racism blueprint does not mean that things will always go your way. It means you will have the tools to overcome whatever you encounter on your path. Welcome your mistakes and failures as an opportunity to grow and learn. Celebrate your successes, no matter how big or small.