The type of yoga that my instructor is teaching is called Raja yoga, which means royal or kingly. The focus of this practice is to bring the mind and body into harmony to allow your energy to flow freely and so that you may meditate. An extension of this practice allows for meditation with G-d (or deity or prophet).
This class doesn't focus on the meditative/spiritual part so much as yoga poses and thinking about how to bring the teachings of yoga into your life for better harmony overall. The spiritual side is left for the student to pursue individually. Today after class the instructor was talking to a couple of the students about what this means for the universe, and I found myself drawn to the conversation as though I were a moth to someone's porch light. I've been in a contemplative state of mind for a while now. I can't get enough of this.
Today's yama lesson was that of Not Taking More Than What You Need. The other lessons (non-violence, truthfulness, not stealing, appropriate sexuality) all teach that if you perform the lesson fully then you will receive its gifts. For example, if you achieve completely the lesson of not stealing, then you will be provided with riches.
It would follow, then, that if you don't take more than you need you will be provided with all that you need. Well, maybe, but that is not the point of this yama. The point is that if you take only what you need, then you will be shown your past and future lives. That may sound a little mystical to some of you; a little too "out there", or irrelevant. What it means, though, is that you will be shown your true purpose in life. You don't have to believe in reincarnation for you to understand that it is there to show you something.
Hello! Thank you, that's what I've been searching for: the meaning of life. More specifically, the meaning of MY life.
There are obvious benefits to taking only what you need: using less food means your body doesn't have to work so hard to digest it nor do you gain excess weight; buying fewer things means you have less stuff in your house to cause clutter and you have spent less money; creating less waste means there isn't as much garbage in the landfill, etc. When you drink some alcohol, you feel good. When you drink too much, you get sick. Moderation. (I haven't learned THAT particular lesson fully, yet, it seems.)
This yama raises the question, How much is enough? This pertains to more than just material goods, but also to the effort we put forth in our lives toward tasks, relationships, and just about anything you can think of. The answer is not the same for everyone. Nor is it the same for every situation.
At this point it's good to point out that in yoga, no one thing is more important than another thing. The way you get into a pose is just as important as the way you hold it, as the way you get out of it, as the way you breathe. It's more about the way you do things, than what you do. This is the essence of the spirituality behind yoga as well.
It's a hard concept to grasp, at least some of the more esoteric concepts are. When you think about it though it makes sense that it's our minds which place hierarchical importance to things. Not Life. Not G-d. Not the Universe. To the Universe, working is just as important as doing a crossword puzzle. To us, working is obviously more important. Both have value. It's a question of balance, and of intention. I so get that.
How much is enough? Good question.