When it comes to violins, the Stradivarius has no equal. Their value can go into the $10-million range and to have one in my hands would be against the laws of the universe. Unless I hit my head and wake up a virtuoso, I will never master that kind of skill.
No violin will make the musician. A hammer does not make the carpenter. A black belt does not make the martial artist. A brush does not make the artist. A mat does not make the Yogi and the sword does not make the Samurai, even if it is made by Hattori Hanzo himself.
Whatever our “sword” is (metaphorically speaking) and the skills to use it, is just one side of the equation. The other side is about the character and soul behind their employment. It’s about living the way.
The seven samurai virtues are Righteousness: honesty, integrity, and justice. Courage: Living life completely, fully and wonderfully in the face of fear and risk. Benevolence: Love, generosity, compassion, sympathy, and pity. Politeness: True Samurai have no reason to be cruel and no need to prove their strength. The last three are Sincerity, Honor, and Loyalty.
So, no matter how exquisite the sword, it is nothing without the Samurai. However … a Samurai without a sword is still a Samurai.
Just as there are seven virtues of a Samurai, there are eight limbs of yoga:
Yama deals with ethics. There are five Yamas: Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Bramacharya (continence), and Aparigraha (non-greediness).
Niyama deals with self-discipline. There are also five Niyamas: Saucha (cleanliness), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (self-discipline), Svadhyaya (self-study), and Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender our ego in favor of a higher self).
The other six limbs are: Asana (the postures), Pranayama (breath work), Pratyahara (mastery over external influences), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (bliss).
Like the samurai and his sword, no matter how acrobatic and flexible the pose, it is nothing without the yogi that performs it. However, a yogi, practicing the way and living the eight limbs (within the reasoning of reality, of course), without perfect posture (asana), is still a Yogi. Even without a mat.
It is a personal and individual journey.
Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash