what are the yamas and the niyamas?
In 2023 we will be introducing you to and applying the principles of the yamas and the niyamas into our asana classes.
Yamas and the niyamas are the first two limbs of the eight fold path of astanga yoga as delineated in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. *
Yama means self-restraint and are universal principles that enable us to live in harmony with each other. There are 5 listed in the sutras:
Satya real, truthful
Asteya non-stealing, non-misappropriating
Brahmacarya continence, chastity
Niyama means individual observances practiced to be in harmony within oneself. There are 5 listed in the sutras:
Sauca cleanliness, purity
Tapah a burning desire
Svadhyaya study which leads to knowledge of the self
Isvara pranidhanani devotion, surrender
BKS Iyengar: “Mastery of yoga would be unrealizable without the observance of the ethical principles of yama and niyama.”
Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, page 144
Yoga: the Art of Integration, page 144
The above gives you a broad definition as we go forward. At first glance the yamas and the niyamas appear to be universal moral principles that have guided society and religions throughout history. In our practice of yoga the effort is to translate the ideal into the actual, this is the arduous journey that Rohit Mehta mentions.
*For an understanding of all the 8 limbs of Astanga yoga, read BKS Iyengar’s Introduction to Light on Yoga, “What is Yoga?”