Yoga Deepening Circle 9 – Sauca (bodily purification)

Sauca (niyama – Patanjali II.32 and II.40 & 41)

trans. bodily purification / cleanliness / purity / ecology / harmony

“With bodily purification, one’s body ceases to be compelling, likewise contact with others.

Purification also brings about clarity, happiness, concentration, mastery of the senses and capacity for self awareness.”  (Hartranft)

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Yoga Deepening Circle 8 – Svadhyaya (self study)

Svadhyaya (self study) (yama – Patanjali II.32 and II.44)

“Self study deepens communion with one’s personal deity.”  (Hartranft)

“Union with the chosen divinity comes from the study of self through the sacred texts.” (Bouanchard)

“Navel gazing” I thought when I was first introduced to Svadyaya, “not sure that’s for me!”

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Yoga Deepening Circle 7 – Asteya (not stealing)

Asteya (not stealing) (yama – Patanjali II.30 and II.37)

“For those who have no inclination to steal the truly precious is at hand.”  (Hartranft)

“When one abjures stealing, jewels shower down.” (Stoler Miller)

“All the jewels appear for one who is firmly set in honesty.” (Bouanchard)

Asteya seems to be another one of the yamas that by its negative phrasing seems to present a spectrum of action from proscription through to encouragement.  Read more →

Yoga Deepening Circle 6 – Isvara pranidhana (dedication to the ideal of yoga)

Part 6 of a 10-part invitation to inquiry centred on the yamas and niyamas described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  The full series is available at

Isvara pranidhana (dedication to the ideal of yoga) (niyama – Patanjali II.32 and II.45)

“Through orientation toward the ideal of pure awareness, one can achieve integration.”  (Hartranft)

“The perfection of pure contemplation comes from the dedication to the Lord of Yoga.” (Stoler Miller)

“Contemplation and its powers are attained through worship of God.” (Bouanchard)

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Yoga Circle 5 – Aparigraha (non-possesiveness, non-grasping)

Part 5 of a 10-part invitation to inquiry centred on the yamas and niyamas described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  The full series is available at

Aparigraha – not being acquisitive, non-grasping, overcoming possessiveness, non-greed (yama – Patanjali II.30 and II.39)

“Freedom from wanting unlocks the real purpose of existence.”  (Hartranft)

“When non-greed is confirmed, a thorough illumination of the how and why of one’s birth comes.” (Satchidananda)

“One who perseveres on the path of non-covetousness gains deep understanding of the meaning of life.” (Bouanchard) Read more →

Yoga Deepening Circle 4 – Satya (and Right Speech)

Part 4 of a 10-part invitation to inquiry centred on the yamas and niyamas described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  The full series is available at

Satya – truthfulness (yama – Patanjali II.30 and II.36)
“For those grounded in truthfulness, every action and its
consequences are imbued with truth.”  (Hartranft)

As usual, there’s more to Satya than first glance suggests.  When I first encountered this yama, it was presented to me as a simple ‘tell the truth’ instruction.  Even this simple interpretation raises questions
pretty quickly.  Always tell the truth? Even if it hurts people? How does this sit with ahimsa (non–harming)?
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Yoga Deepening Circle 3 – Tapas

Tapas – Part 3 of a 10-part invitation to inquiry.  These offerings on the yamas and niyamas are not intended as teachings but as an encouragement to reflect on and ideally share your own perspective.  Recognising that we each have something to offer and something to learn and that collectively we deepen our inquiries.

Tapas – heat, discipline, intense discipline, austerities (yama – Patanjali II.32 and II.43)

Although literally ‘heat’, Tapas is most frequently translated as ‘discipline’, ‘intense discipline’ or even ‘austerities’.  Read more →

Yoga Deepening Circle 2 – Ahimsa

Ahimsa – non-violence, non-harming (yama – Patanjali II.30 and II.35)

Ahimsa, at first glance seems an easy ask – it doesn’t seem too difficult to commit to not harming others.  However, closer scrutiny makes it seem like an impossible goal.  Breathing, eating, moving, living in general, would seem to cause some harm to other beings.  Bugs on the windscreen, food on our plates, the exploitation of workers to provide me with a cheap t-shirt (not to mention the ecological harm caused by the pesticides and irrigation used to grow the cotton to make the shirt!).  The web of impacts seems to ripple out from almost all aspects of life.   Read more →

Yoga deepening circle 1 – Santosha

Santosha – contentment (Niyama – Patanjali II.32 and II.42)

I began by thinking of contentment as something the ‘happens to me’, arising out of circumstances, a blessing received.  So my first question “was why include it alongside the other niyamas which appear to be ‘things for me to do or aspire to be!’”.  I wondered if there was a way of considering contentment in the same light.  As a form of practice and/or a state to aspire to be.  Read more →

An invitation to the yoga deepening circle

I celebrate my 50th birthday this year and I’d like to invite you not to a party but to a shared yoga inquiry.  The current debates about the regulation of Yoga teacher training have had me wondering a lot about the evolution of yoga in modern, western culture.  I’ve decided to look again at Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga and specifically the yamas and niyamas.  There is so much public forum dialogue around the physical and neuroscience aspects of yoga.  It strikes me that these first two limbs mentioned in the Sutras, seem often overlooked or at best given cursory attention.  I want to explore whether they are philosophical remnants of another age of yoga or are as relevant today as ever?  Read more →