Zinedine Zidane & the Yoga of Ethics

Zidane headbutts Materazzi and gets sent off in the football World Cup Final 2006

In a moment of testosterone-fuelled animality, a billion viewers cried in shocked unison, “what on earth is Zidane doing?” For, the captain of France’s football team, in their chase for the World Cup, had just launched a charging headbutt at Italian player Materazzi, knocking him to the ground. The Frenchman was shown the red card and sent off the pitch.

It was an iconic moment – one that will surely be stamped into the collective memory of this year’s tournament and of Zidane’s largely brilliant career. This was his last game before retirement and the manner in which he chose to exit left the crowd dazed with tension and confusion.

The game seemed to sour from that moment on. It became difficult to root for France… They had lost the moral advantage.

Though we see cultural variations of the details, there exists a universal code of morality and ethics embedded deep within our human psyche. Many people would agree that after their death they’d like to be remembered as a good person. Being ‘good‘ may equate to being honest or kind, or some other universally accepted norm of morality.

The Yoga of Ethics
The Sound Guy does Meditation

The ancient system of yoga describes some important guidelines for ethical living. And while many religions and individuals consider morality to be a goal in life, yoga considers it to be just the starting-point, the foundation upon which a person may expand towards self-realisation and spiritual liberation. For, it is not only the effect that a moral or immoral person will have on others that is at stake, it is also the peace of mind of that person.

Meditation – the introspective practice for self-realisation that is prescribed by yoga – is particularly difficult for a mind that is ill at ease. Guilt and shame create mental turbulence that can be difficult to quiet. Hence, yoga gives great importance to the practice of moral living. These are not simple dos and don’ts, not rigid commandments to be followed without thought, but instead a dynamic consideration of each situation that one encounters, to be given an appropriate response.

The ten ethical principles described by yoga (known as yama and niyama) are as follows:

  1. Ahimsa – To avoid causing harm by thought, word or action.
    This does not equate to non-violence or non-force, since one may be required to defend oneself or others in extreme situations. And it does not mean non-action, for choosing to remain passive is in itself an action.
  2. Satya – Benevolent truthfulness; to use words for the benefit of others.
    This does not necessarily mean absolute truthfulness, because there may be situations where that causes more harm than good.
  3. Asteya – To refrain from stealing, or depriving another person of what is rightfully theirs.
  4. Aparigraha – To live simply, without accumulating more material goods than one needs.
    This helps to keep the mind unburdened and allows resources to be utilised by all of society.
  5. Brahmacarya – To see all people and objects as an expression of the same universal Consciousness.
  6. Shoaca – To maintain cleanliness of body, mind and environment.
  7. Santosa – To be content with what one has in life, rather than wishing for something else.
  8. Tapah – To make sacrifices for the benefit of others.
    This may be done by assisting a person’s physical, mental or spiritual needs. This is given with no thought of reward or return, and may require some personal discomfort.
  9. Svadhyaya – To make an effort to understand spiritual subjects and to incorporate their lessons into daily life.
  10. Ishvara Pranidhana – To maintain a regular practice that expands one’s mind towards the Infinite.

Can you imagine a World Cup of ethical athletes? There would be no red cards or tantrums for Rooney, no elbows in the face from De Rossi, none of the incessant diving from the Portuguese team, just great football and good sportsmanship.

Can you imagine a society where even 5% of the people are sincere in practising moral living? Are we ready to embrace such an overhaul of our personal conduct?

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22 Responses to Zinedine Zidane & the Yoga of Ethics

  1. Premasagar says:

    Nominations for the ‘Ethical DreamTeam’…

    I think I would have:
    Nelson Mandela in goal…
    Aung San Suu Kyi on the left wing…
    • And surely Gary Lineker would have to be striker – he always played fair and is forever smiling, so he must be pretty contented ;)

  2. Les Zizous says:

    A song for Zidane by kabyls from Menilmontant :


    here : http://les-zizous.net

  3. Jyotirmaya says:

    hmmm -maybe the title should have been the Ethics of Yoga rather than the way it was titled, since ethics is, in itself, a far broader field than just Yama and Niyama.

  4. Pingback: dharmasphere » No Zidane is an Island

  5. Madhava says:

    Ecellent article Prem. Relevant, up-to-date and ultimately grounded in spiritual ideals! Perfect …


  6. Boys will be boys. At least Soccer players don’t receive as severe of injuries as American Football. My knee still hurts when I force my leg in lotus.
    On a positive side, I guess it is good for the world to be watching and hopefully learning as the drama of anger and violence plays out.


  7. Ciranjiiva says:

    Noam Chomsky for left winger

  8. Excellent, nice to hear some intelligent commentary.


  10. Didi says:

    Well said! Brave!

  11. Yoga says:

    Yoga from india is very meditative.

  12. second hand says:

    “Excellent, nice to hear some intelligent commentary.” – I second that!…makes a change from a lot angry talk you here these days. Keep up the great ethos

  13. yoga says:


  14. Heh, the yoga of ethics. I guess if people understood the spirit of what it means to be ethical (I mean figuratively) I think people and societies would be better off as more understanding.

  15. iYAN-kun says:

    Yoga,is very useful to our health i may say.my parents are becoming more and more healthier as they practice everyday.

  16. Mike says:

    Practicing Yoga gives peace of mind. One who practice the ten ethical principles described by yoga can definitely make the world a better place to live in.

  17. Ankit says:

    Yeah yoga is helpfull….

  18. taylor says:

    Yoga does help one’s mind to feel relieved….and there are more n more people taking up this practice….

  19. tyre says:

    I still remember this moment, it was pure madness by a genius footballer.

    Shame it had to end that way for him.


  20. Simon says:

    Everyone of us should take some responsibility to create awareness about Yoga and volunteer to teach people to bring out peace and harmony.

  21. St. George says:

    Thanks for the post I never realized yoga was so much more than just stretches and poses. But it makes sense that you have to have a clear conscience in order to reach self-actualization.