After practising Yoga for a while, I wanted to know more about the Yamas & Niyamas, the first two practices of Yoga.
‘yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’, meaning ‘to join’ or ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite’.
The scriptures the practice of Yoga leads to the union of individual consciousness with that of the Universal Consciousness, creating a perfect harmony between the mind and body, Man & Nature for some people it’s purely a physical exercise this was me for a long time when I started my journey, a way to get stronger, healthier and more flexible. Still, for others, it’s meditating each day, and Pranayama (breathwork) .
Yoga – meaning ‘unity’ is more than just a 45min class a few times a week its a way of life.
Not just Asana (making shapes)
While all the stretching, twisting, balancing and wobbling over is very beneficial, and certainly helps us to become leaner stronger and healthy, Making shapes is just a tiny branch.
Texts such as the Hatha and The Yoga Sutras don’t focus on the physical yoga postures (Asana). When Patanjali speaks of ‘asana’, he is not referring to Headstand’s or backbends he’s talking about the position you choose to sit in a while meditating – your ‘seat’.
The Yoga Sutras
Yamas and Niyamas originate from the very well known text ‘The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, but the books are most likely the culmination of a group of Patanjali’s disciple’s text created over some time.
I’m Glancing over the Yoga Sutras here, a must-read for anyone wanting the yoga experience to advance can use as more of a guide or instruction manual on how to live to progress onto a spiritual path towards enlightenment.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
There are eight ‘limbs’ of the Yoga Sutras; each describes a different aspect of the yoga practice and a separate step on the path to realisation. These are commonly known as the ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga’.
- Yamas (moral discipline) The bridge between you and another
- Niyamas(observances) Guidelines for control for a balanced life
- Asana (physical postures) Yoga postures Making shapes
- Pranayama (breathing techniques) Expansion & suspension of the breath
- Pratyahara (sense withdrawal) Withdrawal of the senses looking inwards
- Dharana (concentration) Single pointed awareness concentration
- Dhyana (absorption or meditation) Meditation & Absorption The now the present moment
- Samadhi (enlightenment or bliss) The mind loses the sense of its own identity
- If you want to know more about the eight limbs of yoga look here
The Yamas and the Niyamas
Here, I’m focused on the Yamas & Niyamas, the first two practices of Yoga according to Patanjali. If you want to read his book, see here
When we have been practising Yoga some time we usually feel ourselves wishing to learn more, and this is what happened to me I wanted to know more so I became a teacher but if this is not quite the path you want to take this is a great place to start because Yoga is so much more than just making shapes on our mat.
The point of a yoga practice is for us to go inwards, but then to keep this state of being with us when we leave class, so it goes so much further than just the superficial toned look we achieve with Asana,
I like many, and maybe you started on my journey by just going to Yoga for the physical but the reason I carried on and wanted to know more is because of the energy I got from practising which was way more than physical strength.
The Yamas and Niyamas are ‘moral codes’, or ways of ‘right living’. They form the foundation of our whole practice and honouring these ethics as we progress along ‘the path’ means we can remain mindful of each action we take, and cultivate a more present and aware state of being in the now.
The Yamas and Niyamas are ‘moral codes’, or ways of ‘right living’. They form the foundation of our whole practice.
‘yama’ is often translated as ‘restraint’, discipline’ and Patanjali states that these vows are entirely universal, they are for anyone and every one no matter who you are or where you come from, your current situation or where you are going. To be ‘moral’ can be a challenge especially in our busy fast paYamalives, this an essential practice of Yoga and that the word ‘yoga’ means ‘unity’, ‘wholeness’ I try my very best to be mindful present and aware on my mat, but I’m also cognizant if this doesn’t translate off the mat and flow with the way I live my day-to-day life, I don’t, and won’t feel the real benefits of Yoga.
The Yamas guide us
Five Yamas in total listed in Patanjali’s Sutras are:
- Ahimsa (non-harming or non-violence encourage peace within ) I shall not hurt you, save the most and kill the least. This is often to do with veganism too
- Satya (truthfulness) in word thought and action, don’t manipulate truth as it is and these mean don’t say yes to things you don’t want to do truthful to yourself and others
- Asteya (non-stealing) non-taking, never take without asking or more than needed example gluten
- Brahmacharya (celibacy or’ right use of energy’) harnessing the power of the senses esp sex drive and means sexual discipline, not celibacy
- Aparigraha (non-greed or non-hoarding) greed clinging taking more and not holding onto things
‘Niyama’ often translates as ‘positives’ or ‘observances’ and is recommended for healthy living and’ spiritual existence.
- Saucha (cleanliness) purity of inner and outer body; this includes our thoughts and actions to be natural and not artificial.
- Santosha (contentment) within don’t lead a life of consolation, understand yourself, no confusion truth. Whatever you achieve be content that you did your best even if you have to try again do not wallow.
- Tapas (discipline, austerity or’ burning enthusiasm) translates as heat. The heat from our practice and can purify all levels. Permanently, we remove the blockages. Pranayama is regarded as the best tapas and is the best way to control blockages.
- Svadhyaya (the study of the self and the texts) through scripture mantra and awareness Watch yourself see where you need to work and don’t let your ego dominate.
- Isvara Pranidhana (surrender to a higher being, or contemplation of a higher power) humility and gratitude surrender yourself to the outcome. An attitude of commitment to full conviction and proper understanding. It is also an attitude of reverence accepting the greatness of one without ego. Pranidhana means some force was rising in you and part of your life, and it changes your thought of being so this can mean a few different things to different people universal energy God etc. or divine guidance.
You may consider yourself ‘spiritual’ or maybe not, but if you practise Yoga, these are all we can help others and the world around us regardless.
To benefit from our Yoga practice,we have to take it with us off the mat so when we leave the studio and bring it into our lives, it’s not just our bodies that reap the benefits, but our minds and hearts too. From the state of being, we become closer to wholeness, alignment and unity of our-self, and we then go from just ‘doing’ Yoga which isn’t Yoga, because we can’t do Yoga, Yoga is us, so we live and breathe it in each moment of our lives.
Enjoy your yoga journey, and if you want more wellness or Yoga in your life, download my free app here with friendly beginner-advanced, Pranayama and meditation classes.