The Yamas and Niyamas are the first two limbs of the eight-fold yogic path. Devoted study and practice of these ten principles can literally bring your yoga practice to life throughout all of your daily activities.
The 5 Yamas are ethical guidelines for the yogi, pertaining to his or her relationship with others in society, the outer environment and nature.
- Ahimsa (non-violence) asks us to practicing loving kindness towards others and ourselves through a complete commitment to non-violence in thought, word and deed.
- Satya (truthfulness) encourages us to be genuine and authentic to our inner nature by having integrity and being honorable without concealing the truth, downplaying or exaggerating.
- Asteya (non-stealing) is more than simply not taking what is not yours. Asteya asks us not to rob ourselves or others of time, experiences or freedom.
- Brahmacharya (non-excess) helps us to practicing moderation in all forms, so as not to deplete ourselves of vital life force energy.
- Aparigraha (non-attachment) refers to voluntary simplicity. This principal asks us to not accumulate beyond what is necessary and to voluntarily release things when it is time to let them go.
The 5 Niyamas are ethical guidelines for the yogi, pertaining to observances of one’s Self, without blame or judgment.
- Saucha (purity) refers to maintaining cleanliness, orderliness and balance by adopting both internal and external purification practices. This involves eating purely, thinking purely and having humility and pride in the human body as a vehicle of experience.
- Santosha (contentment) encourages us to practice equanimity and to maintain a peaceful, tranquil mind.
- Tapas (discipline) is a taming of the ego as expressed through self-discipline, willpower and patience. Through this discipline, it can be possible to connect with our true spirit without letting ego get in the way.
- Svadhyaya (self study) explains that through self-inquiry, mindfulness, discernment and daily journaling, we can become contemplative about how the yogic teachings may apply to our psychology and lifestyle.
- Ishvara Pranidhana (devotion) calls for open-heartedness in the form of complete surrender and willingness to serve the source and humanity.
I invite you to reflect on how the Yamas and Niyamas can be applied in your personal yoga practice to help maintain a grounded and balanced physical, mental and emotional body on and off the mat.