In the past two decades, yoga has moved from relative anonymity in the West to a well-recognized practice offered in thousands of studios, community centers, hospitals, gyms, and health clubs. Although yoga is commonly portrayed as a popular fitness trend, it’s actually the core of the Vedic science that developed in the Indus Valley more than 5,000 years ago.
Yoga began as a philosophy rather than as a physical discipline. The term yoga is first mentioned in the sacred Indian text the Rig Veda, which dates to roughly 500 B.C. The Rig Veda defines yoga as a union or “yoking” of the material and spiritual worlds, and it doesn’t describe any physical postures other than the traditional cross-legged meditation pose.
Another 300 years passed before the legendary sage Patanjali composed the Yoga Sutras, where he systematically describes the eight “limbs” of yoga. The Yoga Sutras offers a clear roadmap for the evolution of consciousness from ordinary states of awareness such as waking, dreaming, and sleeping – to higher states of consciousness.
Like anything else, knowledge must evolve, and although there are standard interpretations of the eight limbs of yoga, at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, we have developed more contemporary perspectives that are in alignment with our philosophy of spiritual evolution.
Here is an overview of the eight limbs, the standard interpretation, and our perspective:
The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga
My colleague and friend Dr. David Simon and I developed the Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga as a consciousness-based practice that is based in India’s ancient wisdom teachings and the eight limbs of the Yoga Sutras. It is focused on integrating and balancing all the layers of our life so that our body, mind, heart, intellect, and spirit flow in harmony.
The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga is based on the principles presented in my book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. Here is a brief summary of these principles:
The Law of Pure Potentiality
Our essential nature is pure consciousness, the infinite source of everything that exists in the physical world. Since we are an inextricable part of the field of consciousness, we are also infinitely creative, unbounded, and eternal.
The Law of Giving and Receiving
Giving and receiving are different expressions of the same flow of energy in the universe. Since the universe is in constant and dynamic exchange, we need to both give and receive to keep abundance, love and anything else we want circulating in our lives.
The Law of Karma (Cause and Effect)
Every action generates a force of energy that returns to us in kind. When we choose actions that bring happiness and success to others, the fruit of our karma is happiness and success.
The Law of Least Effort
We can most easily fulfill our desires when our actions are motivated by love. We expand the least effort, and we offer no resistance. We tap into the infinite organizing power of the universe to do less and accomplish everything.
The Law of Intention and Desire
Inherent in every intention and desire are the mechanics for its fulfillment. When we become quiet and introduce our intentions into the field of pure potentiality, we harness the universe’s infinite organizing power, which can manifest our desires with effortless ease.
The Law of Detachment
At the level of spirit, everything is always unfolding perfectly. We don’t have to struggle or force situations to go our way. Instead, we can intend for everything to work out as it should, take action, and then allow opportunities to spontaneously emerge.
The Law of Dharma
Everyone has a dharma or purpose in life. By expressing our unique talents and using them to serve others, we will experience unlimited love, abundance, and true fulfillment in our lives.
When we teach the yoga postures in Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga classes, we include the movements with these seven principles. We have found that even as our students are learning “standard” yoga postures, the attention they give to these principles improves the quality of all aspects of their lives. The mindful application of these spiritual laws promotes success and material abundance, loving relationships, peaceful social interactions, health, wellbeing, and higher consciousness, including intuition, creativity, insight, imagination, and inspiration.
Even if yoga only enhanced physical fitness, the time spent in practice would be fully worthwhile. However, while the health benefits are many, yoga offers much more than just a way to exercise the body. The deeper meaning and gift of yoga is the path it offers us into the timeless, spaceless world of spirit. Yoga teaches us both to let go and to have exquisite awareness in every moment. We remember our essential spiritual nature and life becomes more joyful, meaningful, and carefree.
Deepak Chopra, M.D. is a bestselling author and the cofounder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California. Known as the global source for learning meditation, yoga, Ayurveda, and mind-body medicine, the Chopra Center offers a variety of signature programs, retreats, workshops, and teacher trainings. To learn about special offers and upcoming events, please visit:
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