Like life, yoga is an evolving process that extends far beyond the physical act of Sun Salutations, flows and bending our bodies into postures on the mat. Off the mat, the virtues that yoga instills help create a greater sense of self and contribute to future success. By embracing the virtues that are at the core of every yoga practice - primarily, integrity, trust, passion, love and respect - you can live a more fulfilled and awakened life.
Whether you’re an experienced yogi or you’re contemplating rolling out your mat for the first time, here are some ways of incorporating virtues into your life that create success in all areas of your life.
Yoga Virtue #1 Integrity
Integrity is often considered the foundation of all virtues and involves standing up for what we believe is right and being true to ourselves, no matter what. From a young age, we’re taught both at home and in school the differences between right and wrong as well as how upholding our personal values creates a positive reputation and establishes trust.
In the practice of yoga, yamas are the moral and ethical guidelines that help us lead a conscious, honest and more awakened life, as well as greatly assist with maintaining integrity with ourselves and others. Take a moment to reflect on your day-to-day life: Do you bring integrity to the office every day? Are you a person of high moral character who others trust? Integrity and trust go hand-in-hand since others will come to realize that you are consistently virtuous. (Read more about A Life With Integrity.)
Yoga Virtue #2 Trust
Observing ourselves and others is one of the most powerful ways to learn. When we witness others not abiding by their moral codes, we can better understand how this can compromise trust. After this happens, people begin to withdraw emotionally because they fear betrayal. One of the yamas, satya, urges us to live and speak our truth at all times so we can reach a greater level of trust. Although this is not always easy, incorporating satya into our day-to-day life creates self-respect and honor as well as enables us to see the higher truths of our yoga practice.
Think about how you can incorporate trust into your daily life. Trusting ourselves could be as simple as trying a new posture during our next yoga practice, knowing that our mat is there if we fall. What are some ways you can develop this virtue? (Try by Trusting the Practice of Meditation.)
Yoga Virtue #3 Passion
Living life with passion and purpose is a core virtue in life that also translates to yoga practice. However, in the modern world, sometimes knowing what brings you joy is hard to articulate or display. Because of its self-reflective nature, yoga can help tap into our passions and explore them on a deeper, more meaningful level. It’s important to reflect on what makes us happy periodically. Ask yourself: What makes me excited to jump out of bed in the morning? What drives me forward? Maybe it’s your yoga practice. Perhaps it’s your family or friends or what you do outside of the home. When you can wake up most days and look forward to what’s ahead, you can be confident that you’re following your dharma and living your passion.
Yoga Virtue #4 Love
Unconditional love is one of life’s most special gifts. In Sanskrit, bhava is love as a process, feeling or state of being that brings us increased energy and builds a strong sense of self. Love for one's self is the most important element to cultivate because if we don’t have that, we can’t make space for others that bring us love. Aparigraha is the yama of non-possessiveness and applies to love as well. By letting go of people or things that weigh us down, we open ourselves to new ideas, fresh relationships and more joyous ways of living.
Yoga Virtue #5 Respect
Respect is one of the greatest ways we can express self-love. Take a moment to think about how you demonstrate respect for yourself and others. Perhaps you make a conscious effort to eliminate any negative self-talk or take time to be introspective. Do you respect others by using manners in your daily verbal exchanges, for example? We can respect things, such as money, too, and the conscious acts of spending and saving it. When we seal our yoga practice with Namaste and bring our hands in prayer pose in front of our chests at the heart chakra, we are conveying deep respect and honor for ourselves, our instructor, our fellow yogis and our practice. (Learn more about Why We Say Namaste.)
Yoga helps root this virtue deeper into our lives, inspiring us to move through life with mindfulness for self and others. Respect takes many forms. What does this foundational virtue mean to you and how do you consciously demonstrate it?
When you take time to reflect on these core virtues, what do they mean to you on a deeper level? How do they help bring you peace and contentment each day? By weaving these virtues into your life, one by one, you’ll witness how you can lead a more fulfilled, kinder and successful life - both on and off the yoga mat.