Yamas and Niyamas - Guidelines for Conscious Living

What are they?  They are not the “ten commandments” or any sort of externally imposed rules.  The Yamas and Niyamas are GUIDES that must be deeply contemplated.  Yoga is more than a physical discipline.  Yoga is a path, with a rich philosophy.  Yamas and Niyamas are ten good common-sense guidelines for leading a healthier, happier life – bringing spiritual awareness into a social context.  Focus on the ones that resonate with you today.  Consider their application in your life.  Use your rational mind to question them, ponder them, and examine them from all angles. Yoga is not about mindlessly accepting externally imposed rules – it is about finding the truth for yourself.  So question, challenge and contemplate the guidelines that resonate with you today.   Let the rest go.  All will apply to your life in time.  You can always return to this site to review them again. 

There are many interpretations of the yamas and niyamas.  I have taken definitions from a variety of sources to give you as balanced and complete an idea of their meaning as possible.  Yoga and Sanskrit scholars please feel free to email me with any suggestions.

Why study the Yamas and Niyamas? They help you manage your energy in an integrative manner, complementing your outer life to your inner development. They help you view yourself with compassion and awareness. They help you respect all the different values in the world, balancing your inner growth with outer restraint.  They help you to lead a CONSCIOUS LIFE. 

Yamas and Niyamas are not about right and wrong. They are about being honest with ourselves. Living these principles will change us in the moment. Not about being "bad" or "good" – they are about living our lives in a better way, thinking and being better, moving towards understanding rather than separation. Bad things happen in everyone’s life sometimes. It is not what happens that matters – it is HOW YOU REACT TO IT.

Yamas - Guidelines for how we interact with the outer world.  Social disciplines to guide us in our relationships with others.  The five yamas are: Ahimsa. Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya, Aparigraha.

"Yamas and niyamas all have their root in ahimsa (not harming living beings); their aim is to perfect this love that we ought to have for all creatures...." From the "Yogasutra-bhashya" 2.30, by Vyasa, the oldest commentary on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, translated. by J. Varenne, "Yoga in the Hindu Tradition", Univ. of Chicago Press, 1976