The Yamas & Niyamas

by Delight Yoga

The Yamas & Niyamas are the first two limbs of the eight limbs of yoga according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Yama is the attitude towards our environment and Niyama is the attitude towards ourselves. They create a container for yoga to happen. 

Yama comprises ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya  (honesty), brahmacharya (sensual abstinence), aparigraha (non-possessiveness). Niyama comprises Saucha (cleanliness), Santosha (contentment), Tapah (austerity), Svadhyaya (self-study), Ishvara Pranidhanani (devotion). Below we will give more in-depth information about these principles.

 

Yama: Ahimsa

Ahimsa: Harmlessness - non-violence in action, words and thoughts.
Observing ourselves in our actions with our other world and others while maintaining awareness of our thoughts, intentions, words and actions. Not hurting/upsetting other’s enthusiasm, creativity, freedom, truth or essence. Looking at if our thoughts, intentions, words and actions are fostering the growth and well-being of all beings.

Sutra 2:35: When you are firmly established in ahimsa, physical, mental, vocal and spiritual non-violence, there is abandonment of enmity (hostility, antagonism and harm) by those who are in your presence.

 

Yama: Satya

Satya: Truthfulness - Non-lying, non-gossip, non-exaggeration, stating only that which embodies the truth.
Understanding the truth of who you are and living from that truth in every moment. Acting with integrity. Having the courage to live one’s truth without allowing obstructions from the environment to sway one. Understanding one’s dharma, the truth of that and being steady in that.

Sutra 2:36: When you are firmly established in truthfulness (honesty), which is the basic foundation of success in all actions and transformations, you obtain the fruit of actions without effort.

 

Yama: Asteya

Asteya: Non-stealing - not taking that which is not yours, not taking more than you need.
In constantly looking outside of ourselves for satisfaction, we are less able to appreciate the abundance which already exists. Being content with one’s life while constructively working towards improvement. We steal from others when we take someone’s time that may not be freely given or when we demand more of others that we truly need. We steal from ourselves by letting a lack of commitment keep us from practising yoga. Prosperity consciousness results in our being able to experience the benefits and blessings we have and to be able to attract to ourselves more of what we need.

Sutra 2:37: When you are established in non-stealing, permanent prosperity results.


“Prosperity is not always what you want when you want it, it is having what you need when you need it.”- Paramahansa Yogananda.

 

Yama: Brahmacharya

Brahmacharya: Regulation of sensory pleasures, conservation and transmutation of vital energy by con-trolling and dissolving sensory drives and attachments.
The classical translation is “celibacy”, but Brahma is the name of a deity, char means “to walk” and ya means “actively”, so brahmacharya means “to walk with God”. Other synonyms are continence, self-restraint, discipline, will-power, moderation in all things. Prāna, our vital energy, is dispersed or weakened by constant and unnecessary activity. The continuous dispersal of energy weakens the nervous system and one’s aim. All activities in which the senses are attracted to objects in the environment are dispersing and all activities which draw energy in towards one source of centre (i.e. meditation, yoga, self-reflection) enhance prāna, our life force or essence.

Sutra 2:38: When vital forces are conserved and transmuted, physical, mental and spiritual strength is experienced.

 

Yama: Aparigraha

Aparigraha: Non-attachment, non-greediness, non-possesiveness, impermanence.
When practising non-attachment, we free ourselves from greediness. As a result, we eliminate the sense of competition, isolation and separation. Our actions are directed towards creating unity and harmony. We tend to the whole instead of to the individual and are able to see the unity within diversity. Greed is not just confined to material goods. “Spiritual materialism” can include hungering after enlightenment, difficult yoga postures, one’s personal yoga practice, spiritual powers or perfect bliss. Following the advice of the sages: Be happy with what you have. That which is essential to us is already at hand. Everything we need is already here.

Sutra 2:39: When established in non-attachment, there arises knowledge of past, present and future incarna-tions, as well as the process of birth and death.

 

Niyama: Saucha

Saucha: Purity and cleanliness - in body, speech, mind and spirit.
Understanding that the environment we live in, the company we keep, the activities we engage in, the thoughts we have and the words we speak all reflect our inner life. Removing unnecessary clutter from these areas creates space and allows for clarity. What is the intention behind our thoughts, words and actions? Bringing awareness to our emotions and thoughts allows us to transform them into productive, creative processes. In this way, we become a clear vessel through which Divine energy can flow

Sutra 2:40: When established in sauca, purity, there arises a sense of detachment to your own body and an avoidance of physical contact with the impurities of the bodies of others. One experiences wellness and immu-nity from souces of contagion.

Sutra 2:41: From internal and external purity, there arises serenity, cheerfulness, power of concentration, con-trol of the senses and fitness for Self-Realization.

 

Niyama: Santosha

Santosha: Contentment - the ability to feel satisfied within the container of one’s immediate experience. Balance of the inflow and the outflow of the breath. Cultivating the contentment that exists in the spaces in between the breath. Resting in the self. Understanding that satisfaction with one’s immediate experience depends on being seated in the Self and not on external circumstances, which are always changing and beyond our control.

Sutra 2:42: As a result of contentment, supreme peace and happiness are experienced.

 

Niyama: Tapah

Tapah: Austerity - of mental and sensory impulses.
The word Tapah comes from the Sanskrit verb tap, which means “to burn”. The traditional interpretation of tapas is “fiery discipline”. What we discipline is “any form of potential escape from reality”. Discipline is having enough respect for yourself to make choices that truly nourish your wellbeing and provide opportunities for growth. It can also mean austerity, intense commitment, burning enthusiasm. It is the intention that burns away obstacles keeping us from truly knowing and understanding our universal nature. Tapas can also be interpreted as consistency in striving towards your goals.

Sutra 2:43: Self-discipline, austerity, destroys all impurities and gives rise to the perfection of the body, mind and the senses.

 

Niyama: Svadhyaya

Svadhyaya: Self Study - Activities that cultivate self-reflective consciousness.
The literal translation of Svadhyaya is derived from sva, meaning “Self (soul, Ātman or higher Self), dhy is related to the word dhyana, which means meditation, and ya is a suffix that invokes an active quality. Taken as a whole, it means “actively meditating on or studying the nature of the Self.” It is a continuous remembrance of the Self. Dissolving the illusion of separation and merging into Universal Oneness.

Sutra 2:44: By right study and right application of spiritual practices, direct union with the Divine is expe-rienced.

 

Niyama: Ishvara Pranidhanani

Ishvara Pranidhanani: Devotion - Surrender in Universal Consciousness
Surrender to the “One” means to surrender our ego, our sense of selfness, our sense of separateness. This is done by offering our thoughts words and actions to the whole of existence. When we live our life as an offering to the existence, to all life forms, to the environment, we experience a oneness with the Universe. The ego is dissolved and the experience of Universal Oneness is realized. Surrendering and trusting in the Divine Universe as consciousness, love and truth bring us to the point of absolute merging. We surrender the fruits of our actions, giving up our egotistical illusions and accepting that the way life unfolds has its own perfection.

Sutra 2:45: By total surrender to the Universal Consciousness, Cosmic Consiousness is realized.​