"When a yogi becomes qualified by practicing Yama and Niyama, then the yogi can proceed to asana and the other means." —Yoga Bhashya Vivarana (II.29)
Yogic practices, including Asana, Pranayama, Mantra, Ayurveda, Vedic Astrology, meditation are tools and remedies to help root out the "weeds" in our consciousness and and take us beyond the confines of our difficult karma. The final destination of Yoga is to go even further, by letting go of the limitations of the self that identifies with the thorny Karma.
However, these practices cannot be superficially incorporated in our lives. For example, extensive asana practice that is so popular today in gyms and yoga studios will certainly give you a more flexible and fit body but it will not necessarily give you a flexible mind. It will not help us uproot our innate negative patterns, unless the practice is rooted in a deeper yogic understanding, mindset and lifestyle. Indeed, the mindset and lifestyle must precede the Yogic practices.
Yogic lifestyle begins with Yama and Niyama, which are the ten foundational principles set forth in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, as the first and second of the eight limbs of yoga. Some of these will come effortlessly to us and others will be a real struggle depending on the strength and weaknesses of the planets in our horoscope. Through an honest assessment of each Yama and Niyama we can begin to identify the planets in our birth chart that are well disposed as well as those that are still in need of developing.
Ahimsa or Non-Violence –Most of us will never participate in any type of physical violence but Ahimsa usually shows up in our lives as anger, resentment, bitterness and agitation. Even worse we are constantly inflicting violence on our own body and mind through too much tension, exertion, stress, and forcefulness in our thoughts and actions.
In Vedic Astrology, Mars represents our raw energy, and the volcanic fire within. It is our creative self-projection for taking initiative to define, draw the line and transform our environment. If tension, agitation, rage, resentment or conflict keep showing up in our life, chances are that our Mars energy is probably unstable in the horoscope. To balance Mars we have to practice Ahimsa, or acting with passion, fearlessness and fervor in our actions and thoughts, but with patience, equilibrium, openness and surrender.
Satya or Truthfulness – Practicing Satya , requires being honest with ourselves and others so that our thoughts, actions and deeds are rooted in principled actions and honesty rather and twisting and modifying our beliefs to suit the situation.
The Sun is the Divine Will in creation as all energies in the solar system originate in the Sun. In the horoscope the Sun represents our connection to the universal soul. A well placed Sun in the horoscope can access universal Truths such as compassion, self-sacrifice and, altruism with ease, as well as abide in them. Self-reliance and the ability to live with conviction is natural to a benefit Sun in the horoscope, as is the desire to protect those more vulnerable than ourselves. If the Sun is not giving good results in the horoscope we must strive for Satya by standing up for higher principles with integrity and confidence, but without domination, pride and dogma.
Asteya or Non-Stealing – Most of us don't steal or rob people but we all take things that don’t rightfully belong to us. Thus, Asteya is not limited to directly stealing money or objects. It also includes stealing someone’s beliefs, ideas, knowledge, relationships, reputation and even confidence. Accumulating or over consumption is also a form of Asteya because we are taking more for ourselves which leaves less for others, as well as stealing the earth's resources from future generations.
A well placed Mercury gives discrimination, adaptability and discernment to understand the “real” value of things. It gives the ability to appreciate what is rightfully ours and what is not. An ill placed mercury will give immaturity to discern boundaries, it will happily take without giving if it does not see any immediate repercussions. The great intelligence of Mercury can even become a tool for manipulation and exploitation. For Mercury to give good results in our horoscope we must become conscious of Asteya by only taking what is ours and “paying back” whatever we have taken from others.
Brahmacharya or Sensory Restrain – While our sense organs are God given gifts for enjoyment and delight, misuse and indulgence of any of our senses can lead to dissipation of energy and turbulence in the mind and body. Practicing Brahmacharya means reigning in our senses and their insatiable wishes, so that we are in the driver's seat of our desires.
Venus in the horoscope indicates our capacity for pleasure and enjoyment and when harmoniously placed will give equanimity in our seeking of gratification. A good Venus gives joy, happiness, refined taste, good choices and balanced pleasure seeking. When afflicted it will give indulgence and unrequited desires. For Venus to give good results we have to practice Brahamacharya by observing restrain of our impulses for fleeting pleasures and bringing our pleasure centers under our control.
Aparigraha or or Non-Grasping/Grabbing.- All of us have gone through periods in our life where we have felt obsessed and out of control. grabbing and clutching on to a person, desire or goal which we feel we simply cannot live without.
Rahu and Ketu, are usually the energies behind our compulsions and addictions. These unconscious forces drive us to fixation and excess. Rahu through over expansion and Ketu through over contraction. Conjunct any planet they send the energy of that planet into overload, confusion and disorder. For Rahu and Ketu to give good results we have to very consciously practice Aparigraha through moderation, temperance and equanimity in every step, thought and pursuit.
Saucha or Purity – We cultivate Saucha by practicing in our diet and lifestyle but also purity in our thoughts words and deeds. Most important is a chaste and unadulterated heart that pursues purity of feelings.
The level and desire for Saucha in our life can be predicted by the condition of Jupiter in our birth chart. Jupiter elevates us and inclines us towards that which is good, wholesome, and unpolluted. He is also called the Guru, or the cosmic teacher and guide, as he teaches us the universal principles of justice, ethics, morality, generosity and charity. A well placed Jupiter in the birth chart will naturally predispose the person towards higher thinking and a pure and elevated lifestyle. To manifest the luck and grace that Jupiter can bring to our horoscope practice Saucha, and the grace of Jupiter will follow.
Tapas or Austerity/Discipline – To manifest our material and spiritual goals we need Tapas, or discipline, austerity, steadfastness, detachment and concentration. Tapas is the drive to put forth effort towards our goals and willingness to work hard to attain them without attachment to the outcome. It literally means the "heat" or discomfort that we must be willing to endure to succeed.
The planets Saturn and Mars both must be strong in the horoscope to give this quality of will power and endurance. Saturn will give the stamina to stick it out no matter how hard it gets and Mars the courage to take risks and endure the dangers we may encounter on our journey. To strengthen Saturn we have to practice Tapas, and embrace hardships with humility and a servile attitude. For Mars to give good results we have to be willing to take the "heat" that comes with any great endeavor, or get out of the kitchen.
Santosha or Contentment – The capacity for Santosha or to be at peace is perhaps what eludes us most in the modern culture. While our outer world becomes more and more expansive our inner alter is neglected, shrinking and tossed aside. The epidemic of insomnia is perhaps the biggest indication that we have lost our capacity to rest and be in the present.
The moon represents our lunar nature and our ability to be content, relaxed and remain open to "what is". A well disposed moon is compassionate but not overly sentimental; it is receptive but never subservient. A troubled moon in the horoscope will be reflected in the person continuously searching for change and forever being seized by discontentment. To harmonize our moon we have to practice Santosha by going with the flow, accepting people and situations as they are and not needing to change them.
Svadhyaya or Self-study – Savadhayaya or self-study is the willingness to reflect on our ego-self, our motivations, habits and tendencies with an unbiased attitude and without self criticism. On a higher level it means to reflect on "who am I" , "where do I come from" and "what is my place within the cosmos".
Jupiter gives the desire for higher knowledge and Mercury the mental dexterity to grasp the knowledge. If one of them is weak in the chart there will either be no interest in self reflection and study or there will be delusional ideas about the self. We can strengthen Jupiter and Mercury and practice Svadhayaya,by studying and contemplating upon inspirational scriptures, books, poems, lectures etc. Be careful not to gravitate to teachers who preach superficial self-study and self-promotion in the name of spirituality.
Isvara Pranidhana or Surrender – This is the most difficult of the precepts, as it requires relinquishing control and yielding to the divine will. Surrender often implies weakness or defeat. However, practicingIsvara pranidhana requires more courage than anything else because it means giving up our limited idea of who we are and aligning with our Higher Self.
Our capacity to truly surrender requires balancing all the planetary energies; Sun for conviction, Moon for receptivity, Mars for courage, Venus for divine love, Mercury for discernment, Jupiter for higher knowledge and faith, Saturn for endurance, Rahu for uncontrolled desire and hunger to know the Divine and Ketu to negate temptation. When all the planets have been realized and mastered surrender comes naturally. In the meantime, the best place to begin for most of us is by simplifying our life and practicing acceptance of how things turn out as part of the divine plan, even if we cannot always understand them.
As you can see we don't have to practice advanced Yoga asana or fancy spiritual practices to live a Yogic mindset and lifestyle. We simply have to strive to be a better human beings, considerate and compassionate with others (even when it is not fair) and ourselves.
Can you identify the planets in your horoscope that you need to work on developing by seeing whichYama or Niyama you are most resistant to? Or take the planet of your dasha/bhukti (planetary period) and find the corresponding Yama or Niyama and work on that. Write and share in the comments below so others can learn from your experience.