To understand yoga is to embrace your warrior self.

Just what exactly is yoga? Due to the increased popularity of yoga in the West, many are under the impression that yoga is meant to be a regiment for stretching or fitness, when in fact its intentionality runs far deeper than that.

The Sanskrit definition of yoga means “union”, “connection” or “integration”; to provide a simple definition: yoga is a practical system built on the intention of finding harmony between the body, mind and spirit; a useful tool in the development of self-mastery.

The focus of my yoga teaching certification is a branch known as Warrior Yoga. Warrior Yoga is for individuals committed to personal growth, each aligning his/her life with precepts of personal excellence, dedicated to serving others, and driven to respond; to prepare for and if necessary, fight for something they hold sacred.

As opposed to stretching, yoga is about personal growth through focus, concentration, and dedication. In this way, yoga was and is a warrior’s practice that is entirely congruent with Krav Maga training and martial discipline. To think otherwise is a mistake.

Pantajali, an ancient authority on Yoga from the 2nd century BCE, defines eight limbs of yoga in the “Yoga Sutras” – a classic text on the study and practice of yoga. As Warrior-Practitioners, when we work through each limb, we find ourselves closer to the achieving the highest level of “union” that allows us to live life at its fullest – this is self-mastery. Over the course of the next several weeks, we are going to define the eight limbs of the yoga sutra and determine what significance they bear for the Warrior. Here are the first two:

Yama: Moral and ethical guidelines which are the foundation of the Warriors being, pointing the Warrior towards mindful action of how they interact themselves and with the world around them. These guidelines inform decisions, cultivate honor, authenticity, integrity, hone self-awareness and encourage humility (If you are apart of the Krav Maga Houston community, you might recognize these concepts as being similar to the formation of an “Ethos”). Pantajali specifically states that Yama consists of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-greed and right use of energy.

Warriors seek non-violence, but they train for life; honing mental, physical, emotional and spiritual preparedness that is required to protect what they deem most worthy. Warriors are constantly seeking the truth, and as a personal practice desire never to lie or cause someone else to. Living a fulfilled life means there is no room for anxiety and frustration, a well-controlled mind is one of contentment with personal desires and possessions. Coveting, stealing and hoarding removes the Warriors focus from serving others to a state of excessive selfishness that can never be fully satisfied. The concept of “right use of energy” continues to support a life of service, leading the Warrior to consider how they can redirect the use of energy on external desires that are ultimately fleeting, towards finding peace and happiness within for the betterment of others.

Niyama: Purity, self-control, introspection and spiritual disciplines are personal habits that are meant to subdue the body and mind through intense examination and meditation. These are an extension of the first limb, the yama, which allow a positive environment for growth, and provide the necessary control and strength to progress through life.

Warriors recognize that life provides many opportunities to examine our conscious and unconscious motives to see who we are in the moment and who we are beyond our current state, realizing our connection with the divine. Warriors submit to a higher power and subscribe to spiritual practices such as prayer, study of scripture/sacred texts, and meditation which unifies thoughts, speech and actions. Warriors do not focus on things outside the margin of their influence, while it may not be possible to change the entire world, it is possible to change themselves – to find peace and joy in the here and now; even through discomfort, Warriors thrive.

Before we delve any further into these eight intertwined “limbs” of yoga, take time to consider that we are all Warriors.

Full stop. We are all Warriors.

Within each of our lives is something outside of ourselves worthy of sacrifice. Embrace the elements of a Warrior lifestyle which can bring with it fulfillment through commitment and discipline and facilitate the alignment of word and deed with meaningful purpose in life.

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