The Yamas and Nyamas

Part of my yoga teacher training is learning yoga philosophy and so far we’ve learned some pretty interesting and useful things. My favorite topics are the yamas and nyamas – the first two subjects on the Ashtanga yoga eight limb path (yes, yoga is not all about the poses and looking good). The yamas are internal observations, or guidelines, and the nyamas are external observations that one should live by. Sort of like the ten commandments. I thought I’d share them with you since they make so much sense to me.

1. Ahimsa – Non-harming and non-violence to yourself and to others. This includes lack of action as well as action and refers to both physical and mental harm.
2. Satya – Truthfulness and honesty to yourself and to others. Don’t try to manipulate or cheat and be faithful to those around you. You can’t be both honest and deceitful.
3. Asteya – Non-stealing, non-greed, and non-jealousy. Earn your things and be respectful to other peoples property.
4. Brahmacharya – Respect the forces that make up your life. When your energies are depleted (sex is the most powerful drainer), your practice (or focus) becomes loose.
5. Aparigraha – Don’t take anything that is not needed and share what you have with others. Too much stuff clutters the mind, so only take what is necessary. As my teacher says, “half the world is hungry, and half the world is wasting.”

1. Saucha – Natural cleanliness and purity of the mind and body. Take care of yourself inwardly and outwardly. Be comfortable with who you are.
2. Santosha – Contentment with what you have (remember Aparigraha!) This is a settled feeling inside that does not depend on external things (like material goods, school, work, even friends and family). It also implies a sense of maturity and growth. Allow the outcome to be the outcome.
3. Tapas – Austerity with contentment. You don’t need to live in a cave and eat rice every day, but don’t be extravagant either. My teacher explains tapas as “reduction to an absence of complaining” about real physical discomfort.
4. Svadhaya – Self-study. Watch, understand, and improve yourself by observation. This is a continual mindset, not just an occasional exercise. Keep an open mind and learn from you experiences. Another favorite quote from my teacher is “silence is the best answer.”
5. Isvara Pranidhana – Surrender yourself to the higher power. Have a willingness to accept whatever comes no matter the outcome and don’t be attached to the results. In other words, have faith that everything is as it should be.

I hope you can take something from these as I have. They’re good guidelines to live by, but sometimes we get caught up in the details life and forget what is really important.


One Response

  1. Love this! Always need to be reminded. Sounds like you are in a very good place..physically and spiritually. xo love you

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