In my classes, you’ll occasionally hear me mention one or two of yoga’s ten principles as they apply to practicing an asana (yoga posture). They comprise an ethical guide to life. There are five yamas and five niyamas. They are listed in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, verses 2.30-2.34.
The five yamas guide the yogi’s relationship with others. They pertain to how one treats other people and behaves in society. They are:
- Ahimsa (non-harming or non-violence)
- Satya (truthfulness)
- Atseya (non-stealing)
- Bramacharya (self-restraint, remembering the higher reality)
- Aparigraha (non-possessiveness)
While the Yoga Sutras list the above five with regard to one’s interaction with community, they can also be applied towards the relationship to oneself, along with the five niyamas listed below:
- Saucha (purification of the body and mind)
- Samtosha (contentment)
- Tapas (self-discipline or austerity)
- Svadhyaya (inner exploration; self-study)
- Ishwara pranidhana (commitment to your spiritual source)
Both on and off the mat, notice when you encounter anger, greed, or delusion. Gauge whether it’s mild, medium, or intense. Let go of self-criticism. Take these negative moments as an opportunity to figure out:
- What provoked your negative thought or action?
- How can you prevent it from happening again?
With this self-awareness practice, you will eventually absorb the yamas and niyamas into daily life. It’s a great way to keep working towards being a better person and contributing to a more compassionate society. Get a head start on those New Year’s Resolutions!
© 2014 Amy Dara Hochberg. All rights reserved.
Yoga with Amy Dara by Amy Dara Hochberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
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