Over the next year, we will be exploring the Yamas and Niyamas. Every month I will write a blog exploring different aspects of each. Whether you are an experienced yogi or new to yoga, integrating the practice of the high limbs in your everyday life can lead to fulfillment with experiences, personal evolution, and growth.
One thing needs to be made very clear: this is not a religion but a spiritual practice to increase your awareness. These practices support you on your journey whether it is religious or not. The eight limb path of yoga provides us with the structure to reach Samadhi, the state of bliss, enlightenment, or complete connection to the divine. Each of the eight limbs is placed in a particular order to create awareness and reduce suffering along our journey; they offer us guidance, both on and off the mat.
- Yama – moral discipline
- Niyama – observances
- Asana – physical postures
- Pranayama – breathing techniques
- Pratyahara – sense withdrawal
- Dharana – concentration
- Dhyana – meditation
- Samadhi – enlightenment or bliss
The Yamas and Niyamas are the foundation of yoga and are the ethical guidelines written in the philosophical texts The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. They are a road map to guide us along our journey through life and they form a moral code of conduct.
The first limb is made up of the Yamas, the moral disciplines or abstinences. They guide our actions toward ourselves and in relationship with the world around us. There are five Yamas, which are self-regulating behaviors involving our interactions with other people and relationships with ourselves.
- Ahimsa: nonviolence
- Satya: truthfulness
- Asteya: non-stealing
- Brahmacharya: non-excess (often interpreted as celibacy)
- Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-greed
The second limb is comprised of the five Niyamas. They are the personal practices that relate to our inner worlds and are thought of as recommended habits for healthy living and “spiritual existence.”
- Saucha: purity
- Santosha: contentment
- Tapas: self-discipline, training your senses
- Svadhyaya: self-study, inner exploration
- Ishvara Pranidhana: surrender
These principles are intended as guidelines for living a life with meaning and purpose.