Yoga isn’t just about poses, breath and relaxation – it’s also about moral guidelines for living. The Yamas and Niyamas are yoga’s ethical guidelines laid out in the first two limbs of the eightfold path. The eightfold path also known as the 8 limbs of yoga acts as a guide to live a life of integrity, self-discipline, respect for nature and the spiritual aspects of life. This blog is specifically about the first two limbs of yoga … the Yamas & the Niyamas and how these guidelines can improve mental well-being in business and bridge spirituality and the workplace.
The Yamas deal with our interactions with others and with the world at large, while the Niyamas are personal practices that deal with our inner world. They’re like a map written to guide you on your life’s journey. Both are important because they give you something concrete to keep in mind as you navigate through life.
Yoga Beyond Movement
Most people in the west view yoga as simply a physical practice, but it is so much more. Yoga is a journey of the Soul that helps to achieve balance in all aspects of life (including business).
To better understand what yoga has to offer, let’s take a moment to examine each of the 8 limbs of yoga.
The 8 Limbs of Yoga
1) Yamas: Restraints on behavior
2) Niyamas: Spiritual observances
3) Asana: Postures (how most of us view yoga)
4) Pranayama: Expansion of breath
5) Pratyahara: Withdrawal of senses
6) Dharana: Concentration
7) Dhyana: Meditation
8) Samadhi: Complete absorption
In my book, SOUL/Life Balance, I go over these in more depth; but for the purposes of this blog and staying on track we’ll continue without expanding upon each limb 🙂
What’s important to know is by following these guidelines, we can achieve a better balance between our spirituality and the workplace.
What Are the Yamas and Niyamas?
The Yamas and Niyamas, are known as the “ethical guidelines” of yoga. Deborah Adele wrote a fantastic book entitled, “The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice”. I read this book as part of my 200-hour yoga training, and it became an instant Top-5 favorite book of mine. I truly believe it’s a book that, if it was a “required” read in school and we all used it as a foundational tool, it could change the world. The Yamas and Niyamas are that powerful and for that reason, I’m going to share with you just a peek into the teachings…
The Yamas: Known as the restraints on behavior; as Deborah puts it, “The yamas are like our personal GPS. They tell us when we are going in the wrong direction and that we need to make ‘an immediate legal U-turn.’”
1) Non-violence (ahimsa in Sanskrit)
2) Truthfulness (satya in Sanskrit)
3) Non-stealing (asteya in Sanskrit)
4) Non-excess (brahmacharya in Sanskrit)
5) Non-possessiveness (aparigraha in Sanskrit)
The Niyamas: Known as spiritual observances; the recommended ways of being for healthy living toward a state of liberation.
1) Purity (saucha in Sanskrit)
2) Contentment (santosha in Sanskrit)
3) Self-discipline (tapas in Sanskrit)
4) Self-study (svadhyaya in Sanskrit)
5) Surrender (ishvara pranidhana in Sanskrit)
The Yamas and Niyamas are more than simply guidelines for living with ethics; they form the foundation of who we are at our core. How could one reach their full potential without first understanding themselves by looking deeply within?
There is a difference between knowing about ourselves and really understanding who we are deep down. As such, this journey will remain an ongoing and open-ended one, all while remaining in line with our core practice of living with SOUL/LIFE Balance.
Deborah Adele’s book walks you through each one of these guidelines in detail and provides exercises to trace one’s behavior and work on each. I highly recommend checking out her book, The Yamas & Niyamas, if this is intriguing to you.
Merging Yogic Principles & Spirituality and the Workplace
A common saying in conscious circles is that “we are spiritual beings having a human experience”. Without getting too deep on you, I would for a second, just like to take a moment to zoom out…
Oftentimes in our life we become fixated on future states (especially in business). We schedule meetings, we plan for meetings, we create goals and deadlines and focus on strategic planning… All of these activities are 100% necessary for success in business and at the same time they are focused on a future state rather than the present moment. The problem is that too often we let the present moment pass us by and we forget about “the bigger picture”.
Gone are the days that speaking about anything relating to spirituality is taboo in the workplace. Corporate companies have been offering mindfulness, yoga, meditation and even creating designated areas for these sorts of practices for years now!
I believe that it’s time we take it a step further … Offering services to our employees to increase mindfulness is an amazing feat, but it’s time that we actually incorporate these things in our daily business interactions and merge spirituality and the workplace.
3 Ways to Incorporate the Yamas & Niyamas and Spirituality and the Workplace TODAY …
I’ve been using the acronym “WIFLE” to begin business meetings for nearly 10 years now! The acronym stands for “What I Feel Like Expressing” and the concept is to create the space for those attending the given meeting to express what’s on their minds (and hearts). Most of us are caught juggling so many different things that we are distracted and the idea of a WIFLE is two fold. One, to help create the space to clear the mind by expressing what’s occupying space and secondly to be seen, heard, witnessed and invited to share a Truth.
By incorporating a WIFLE into your meetings, you are practicing Satya AKA Truthfulness (one of the Yamas).
#2). Ending Meetings for the Sake of Meetings
You know what I’m talking about and if you don’t, then I am extremely stoked for you because you may have never been part of a company that has useless meetings. Too often in business we find ourselves stuck in meetings that are going nowhere… It’s like a meeting to prepare for a meeting. Our calendars can sometimes become bombarded with so many meetings, it’s like we’re just talking and never actually getting anything accomplished.
By being more intentional with your meetings, you are practicing Non-Excess AKA Brahmacharya (one of the Yamas).
#3). Listen More & Talk Less
This one specifically applies to all relationships in our lives (both inside and outside of the office) and it’s centered around how we communicate with others. Many of us, when in conversation with another, find ourselves planning what we are going to say next rather than fully being in the moment to receive and listen to what the other is saying. It’s no fault or shame on anyone, this is just part of how our brains have been wired. However, with conscious awareness we can make a change by surrendering to be more present with another. Doing so allows for more effective (and productive) communication.
By being more present with what others say and not proactively thinking about your response, you are practicing Surrender AKA Ishvara Pranidhana (one of the Niyamas)
These three simple ideas are meant to just get your brain stirring with practical ways we can incorporate the teachings of yoga into business and bridge the gap between what may seem a taboo topic with spirituality and the workplace culture. By incorporating this into your daily business interactions you will communicate better, have a more clear mental focus and ultimately will be more productive in your work.
We often think of spirituality and the workplace as two separate entities, but they don’t have to be. In fact, yoga can teach us a lot about how to practically merge spirituality and business. The Yamas and Niyamas are a great place to start if you’re looking to bring more spirituality into your life (whether it be outside or inside the office).
Improving the mental well-being in your workplace culture is easier than it may seem. To learn more about how I can help in your quest of addressing the Mental Health Crisis, check out my website SamKabert.com.
To a More Fulfilling Life,
P.S. For more, check out this FREE guide with the 3 Undeniably Simple Tactics to Practice SOUL/Life Balance.