Introduction to Yamas and Niyamas

Divine Transformation

Ephesians 1:11 (MSG) It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.

The limbs of the eight-fold path can apply to the Christian life—particularly co-habitation with Christ. You could say the yamas and niyamas are the functional “how to’s”. The point of co-habitation is not to live life with a Christian label, but as a believer in personal relationship with Christ. The term “believer” describes the active engagement of relationship one shares with Jesus as God’s friend. The yamas and niyamas offer us an opportunity to step outside ourselves and observe, as well as discipline, our inner thought life and outer behaviors toward others. Katie Pearson, a Holy Yoga Instructor, describes them as being intended to “cultivate peace with one’s neighbor and oneself.” These are considered stepping stones to enlightenment, or samadhi.

What if people truly BELIEVED that they are loved unconditionally? What would it look like if people believed they could not earn God’s grace but already obtained it through Christ—that each day began with a saturation in grace that spills over with His goodness and love? If your life were a glass of water, imagine it sitting each morning by your bed, half full. It would be tempting to see that glass (your life) as half empty, needing to be filled by a day’s work and effort. Therefore, every accomplishment would fill up the glass drip by drip throughout the day so that by evening, it’s nearly to the brim. But God, in His goodness, gives you a full glass at the start of every day! Therefore, your accomplishments and effort are not necessary to fill the glass itself, but God uses them to make it spill over with His Grace.

What would life look like for those who truly believe that no darkness has a grip on their hearts? Like Colossians 1:12 says, “Your hearts can soar with joyful gratitude when you think of how God made you worthy to receive the glorious inheritance freely given to us by living in the light.” Our inner darkness is in the grave, and we are born again to a new life! You many not stress about a particular sin in a given day if it does not have (or you are not aware) of its grip on you. For instance, if you do not struggle with illegal drug addiction, would you wake up asking God for freedom from that particular sin? No. Yet do thoughts of the sins you do struggle with dominate your thoughts and/or your entire life? Sin’s power—recognizable or not—continues, then, to hold you in its grip. This is why it is vital that belief in who God says we are is paramount: We are rescued from the grip of sin through Christ. We both underestimate and misunderstand the freedom we have in Christ.

To truly believe that sin does not have a grip on your heart, you must truly believe that it is no longer part of your nature. For this, you absolutely have to be resurrected. You absolutely have to believe with all of your heart that mercy and grace are extended to you and that your original design is restored. In Christ, you are “GOOD”! This goes back to original creation, where He called you “good” and even a few verses later, “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Through Christ,

you’ve been given back your original design which has been restored through mercy and grace! This is the reason for the beauty and importance of co-habitation with Christ, the resurrecting power.

A Christian who does not co-habit with Christ follows outward rules, trying through works not to sin to prove his love and desire for obedience.

Believers know truly and deeply that through Christ they are deemed good, and that by co-habitating with Him, fruit will be evident their lives. Let the limbs of the eight-fold path serve as a picture of the outward and inward disciplines of the Christian life. Let them embody John 15—experiencing the fruitfulness of a life lived with Jesus as the vinedresser.

In the niyamas, the fifth, Isvara Pranidhana, one can experience the one-fold path to enlightenment: surrender to God. Yogis of old knew the power of surrender to Grace and its necessity in living a life of freedom. In fact, there is a bit of a serenity prayer, as Leslie Kaminoff puts it, in practicing the observances of Samtosa, Tapas, Svadhyaya, and Isvara Pranidhana. You can surrender to God your heart, soul, mind, and strength and experience the fruitfulness Jesus talks about in John 15:5, saying, “I am the sprouting vine and you’re my branches. As you live in union with me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you—but when you live separated from me, you are powerless.” We will discuss this more in class this coming week.

For now, settle in Proverbs 3. He wants to bring an alternate reality of this world to you. He wants to tell you more about the “more excellent way”—His way, His love, which is inside of you. The book of 1 John speaks in depth of this love and how others will know us as Christ followers by our living out this love.

The yamas are the outer observances of one’s life (the way we treat others, akin to the Ten Commandments), and the niyamas are inner observances of oneself. For believers, Christ’s way says the inner man’s intimacy with Him will change the way they treat others—the Kingdom-driven, inside-out, upside-down way of Christ. There is self, and there is self in Christ. Co-habitating with Christ brings the ultimate reality to you, because He is the ultimate reality. He wants to meet you where you are and bring you to His frequency.

Yoga philosophy says we are born divine, and Christianity says we are all created in the Divine image. However, our sinful nature cut in on us and, until Christ’s sacrifice, prevented us from living in perfect unity with Him. Therefore, we cannot find wholeness our own accord or by our own efforts.

Want to learn more about yamas, niyamas, and other advanced yoga topics? Check out our 300 Hour Master Program that is now Yoga Alliance approved!

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