As many of you know, I’m a big Yama-s and Niyama-s fan. They totally ROCK!! I personally think that if more people practiced them, the world would be a better place for it.
So here is my brief take on them.
Once upon a time, in land far away Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras. They are 196 aphorisms or “threads” that form the foundation of Raja Yoga. According to the Yoga Sutras, the end goal of yoga is the liberation from all worldly suffering, habitual conditionings and the cycle of birth and death. Liberation occurs by removing the clouds of spiritual ignorance by cultivating practices that bring contentment and non-attachment. Through this process, the individual comes to know the pure consciousness of his/her/their being.
It’s in the second book of the Yoga Sutras (Sadhana Pada) that Patanjali lays out all the details on how to actually do this whole attaining Liberation thing. It’s called YOGA and there are two forms.
It’s Ashtanga Yoga that most of us mere mortals practice. Since most of us can’t jump right into Kriya Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga is the step-by-step method. Think of Kriya Yoga as a marathon and Ashtanga Yoga as one of the those “Learn to Run” apps. Baby steps!!
The first two limbs of Ashtanga are the Yama-s and Niyama-s.
So, what is a Yama?
These are the codes of conduct or moral restraint. They are the attitudes towards your environment. They are oriented toward public behavior and allow us to exist harmoniously with others. They are the principles outlining how you treat others and the world around you…and there are 5 of these principles.
A. Ahimsa (non-harming). To apply Ahimsa to daily life is to practice non-harming of any creature in feelings, thoughts, words or deeds/actions. According to T.K.V. Desikachar, Ahimsa is “consideration for all living things, especially those who are innocent, in difficulty, or worse off than we are”.
B. Satya (Truthfulness). You can demonstrate Satya through right communication-telling no lies and be truthful in your feelings, thoughts, words and deeds.
C. Asteya (Non-stealing). You should not covet what others possess. Most of us perceive the universe as lacking abundance, which causes desire for things that are not ours.
D. Brahmacharya (Continence). We can apply Brahmacharya by having moderation in all actions. Through moderation, you can live your life’s purpose instead of endlessly pursuing fleeting pleasures.
E. Aparigraha (Non-accumulation). Aparigraha is the ability to accept only what is appropriate. It is freedom from “collecting” rooted in jealousy of others.
And that leads us to the Niyama-s…and there are 5 of them as well.
These are the internal commitments, responsibilities and disciplines we make to ourselves. The Niyama-s outline how we treat ourselves.
A. Saucha (Cleaniness). To apply Saucha, you must practice the five yama-s which clear away negative physical and mental states of being and protect the purity and sanctity of the energy around you.
B. Santosha (Contentment). You can cultivate Santosha by finding happiness with what you have and who you are, seeking happiness in the moment, taking responsibility for where you are and choose to grow from there.
C. Tapas (Self-Discipline). Tapas is the removal of impurities that allows your body to function more efficiently.
D. Svadhyaya (Study). Education changes your outlook on life and facilities healthy thoughts that enable you to understand your weaknesses and strengths.
E. Ishvarapranidhana (Surrender to cosmic intelligence). Ishvarapranidhana is manifesting a desire to be less self-centered by aiming at higher goals.
So how do I apply these to my life?
Professionally as a yoga therapist, the Yama-s and Niyama-s play a central role in my scope of practice. I frame all my yoga therapy sessions with compassion for my client because everything else flows from the first one on the list-Ahimsa. I also often have discussions with clients on how to incorporate the Yama-s and Niyama-s into their daily lives in order to help achieve their goals. For example, I may ask a client to journal on how to find and maintain the balance of effort (Tapas) and contentment (Santosha). We’ve all been here-you try to force things (not content with the progress) and end up doing harm (causing an injury or pain).
How do you cultivate the Yama-s and Niyama-s is your personal and professional life?
Desikachar, T.K.V. (1995). The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice. Inner Traditions International: Vermont.
Sri Swami Satchidananda. (2012). The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Integral Yoga Publications: Buckingham, VA.
Swami Karunananada. (2016). Swami Satchidananda-Yogaville Ashram Raja Teacher Training Manual [Lecture Notes and manual].
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I AM Boundless Bliss Yoga. Just me. I'm a one-lady band. I'm a yoga therapist. I didn't start out to be a yoga therapist, I just wanted to learn more and SHAAAZZAMM...here I am.