However until now the early-yoga forms we have encountered through history have not paid much attention to an ethical conduct of life. They were instead occupied by the stoic attitude of the noble warrior. So what is new for us here is that yoga practices are deemed to rest upon a foundation of ethical living. This is where liberation starts from – an ethical based life . If the YS reflects a stratum of Kshatriyas – the ruling upper classes – then we have to ask, why this significant change in outlook? Such an ethical life – based on compassion and nonviolence – would be hard to align with the life of a noble warrior. Does this acceptance of ethics imply that the yoga milieu was no longer dominated by the clans of the warriors, but instead by urbanised intellectuals strongly related to the administration and management of the new super-regional or imperial state? As the YS surfaces rather late in the Axial Age, I find such an explanation plausible. The concerns and outlooks of the warriors had been overridden by those of the intellectuals. Yoga was still a part of an upper class milieu framed by hegemonic warrior nobles, but at this time intellectuals increasingly formulated the discourse.
The two sets of ethical rules probably give us an insight into some of the core practices and ideas of the early ascetic renouncer movement. This asceticism, reflecting the two rules, was adapted over the course of time and followed in many other traditions.
Seen from a modern psychological point of view, yama and niyama are very much rules to strengthen and discipline the super ego – the rational and controlling part of the yogi, the self disciplining itself and thereby infusing the body with power. When the yogi can master his relationship to himself and his environment, then the real work can begin. This is what the next group of six elements/limbs is about.
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