How Good Can You Feel?

Photo by Jen Harter

Photo by Jen Harter

MARCH 23, 2016

"We are not human beings trying to be spiritual, we are spiritual beings trying to be human" 
-Deborah Adele

I recently read a book about the The Yamas and the Niyamas, by Deborah Adele, outlining the ethical principals of yoga, which are the bedrock for living a yogic life. Without them, yoga is not experienced. Doing asanas (yoga poses) will be of little benefit if they are not backed by the way you live the rest of your life. 

The Niyamas

  • Sauca- Purity
  • Santosha- Contentment
  • Tapas- Self-Discipline
  • Svadhyaya- Self Study
  • Ishvara Pranidhana- Surrender

The Yamas

  • Ahimsa- Nonviolence
  • Stay- Truth
  • Asteya- Non-stealing
  • Bramacharya- Non-excess
  • Aparigraha- Non grasping

Although the Yamas and Niyamas are sometimes described as the ten commandments of yoga, by no means are they meant to be linear laws to follow, or hard rules to live by. Instead, these principles were designed to be guidelines on how to live a richer, deeper, more fulfilling life. By harnessing our energy, we increase the potency of our power. In essence, the Yamas and Niyamas lead us to creative liberation.

We all want to experience more freedom. And Joy. And Inner Peace. We all want to be authentic. Those are not attainable goals in themselves, but rather, are the byproducts of our choices.

Feeling free, and joyful, and lit up, come from aligning with who you are, and embodying your truth. They are the fruits of your practices, the karma you create. They arise from how your spend your time, and where you place your attention. 

The Fruits of Practicing the Niyamas:

  • Purity- Clarity
  • Contentment- Joy
  • Self-Discipline- Refinement
  • Self-Study- Freedom
  • Surrender- Harmony

The Fruits of Practicing the Yamas:

  • Nonviolence- An aura of peace that protects self and other
  • Truth- Spoken words will always come true
  • Non-stealing- Abundance
  • Non-excess- Great Vitality
  • Non-possessiveness- Knowledge of experience

The more intentional we become about how we spend our time, our energy and our attention; the more conscious we become about what to hold onto and what to let go of. The more we practice discernment and presence, the more we are free to live a life devoted to what matters most, embodying who we are and cherishing what we most value. 

At the end of the book, Adele invites her readers to contemplate: How good can you feel?

Living into the question of "how good you can feel" is not a hedonistic, spiritual bypassing of the hardships of being human. Rather, it is an invitation to remember who you are: a soul embodied, here to experience the full spectrum, free to choose where to dwell and what to create out of it all.

I've since asked myself this question every day: How good can I feel?

The Yamas and Niyamas do not exist to impose upon you an austere and boring life. They invite you to push the limits of your wellbeing. 

So go on, question the assumptions you've made about your life and begin experimenting. Test your capacity for joy.  How much you can enjoy your limited time on this planet? How good CAN you feel? (Warning: This experiment may result in a life well lived.) 

Chantal Russell