Over the past 10 weeks, each of my classes has been themed around either a Yama or Niyama, the ethical guidelines we follow as yoga practitioners. The Yamas and Niyamas are the first and second limb on Patanjali’s Eightfold Path of Yoga. The Yamas are character building restraints, put in place to regulate our behaviour with others and the world around us and the Niyamas are character building observances that relate to our inner world or self.
Speaking from personal experience, the Yamas and Niyamas were what really encouraged me to tread the path of yoga throughout my life in its entirety. I had visited various classes, on and off for a couple of years, mainly due to the physical benefits offered through asana, as opposed to the more spiritual aspect of the practise. It wasn’t until my life pretty much fell apart in the space of a week that began to look for a more fulfilling way to live. As a matter of fact, when I arrived at Kripalu to begin my YTT, we were asked to write on a paper shape what we wanted to achieve from our time at the school and subconsciously I wrote “to live a more fulfilled life” which is what is encouraged of the Kripalu method. In all honesty I didn’t do a great deal of research where do to my training, I just looked for a program that fit the dates I could attend and it was obviously just meant to be,
This is just a short post to summarise the Yamas and Niyamas, so, let’s begin…
Ahimsa – Non-Harm
Practising non-harm to yourself and others, not reacting with violent words or actions. Practising non-harm to yourself throughout asana, physically and mentally. Practising non-harm to other living things. Many yogis are vegetarian or vegan as a practise of Ahimsa.
Satya – Truthfulness
Practising truthfulness by not telling lies. Being truthful in your actions. Living your truth. Practising truth throughout asana.
Asteya – Non – Stealing
Not taking things that aren’t yours. Being conscious of your greed or need for material objects. During asana, taking your time through the practise not “stealing” time off other postures.
Brahmacharya – Energy Management (or Celibacy)
Using your energy consciously. Not living to excess. Often interpreted as practising celibacy or being aware of how to use sexual energy or who you are being intimate with. Reserving energy to use on a path towards enlightenment.
Aparigraha – Non-Possessiveness
Limiting material possessions.Taking only what you need. Sharing your love, knowledge and wealth.
Saucha – Cleanliness
Cleanliness of yourself. Taking pride in your appearance and possessions. Practising clean thoughts and actions.
Santosha – Contentment
Inner contentment. Building a foundation of contentment during asana for a transformative practise. Practicing contentment throughout all the areas of your life.
Tapas – Self-Discipline
Discipline during asana. Practising all the aspects of the yoga practise regularly. Practising discipline when the ego of the mind takes over and perhaps encourages the body to pain or injury.
Study of the scriptures and philosophy of the practise. The Sutras, Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. Studying the self. Noticing patterns and habits.
Ishvara Pranidhana: surrender
Trusting in the universe. Surrendering to a Higher Power. Realising that we aren’t in control. Lila, the divine play of the universe.
There you have it, a brief recap of the Yamas and Niyamas. Over the next few weeks. I am going to write a post for each, with ways you can practise these on and off the mat. If you have any questions, please comment below or get in touch!