The Yamas and Niyamas in 2023


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:

Ahimsa  non-violence

Satya  real, truthful

Astheya  non-stealing, non-misappropriating

Brahmacarya  continence, chastity

Aparigrahah  non-hoarding

Introduction to Niyamas and how they are differing from Yamas

Niyama means individual observances practiced to be in harmony within oneself. There are 5 listed in the sutras:

Sauca  cleanliness, purity

Santosa  contentment

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

Rohit Mehta: One who moves along the path of Yoga must possess the health of the body and the mind. With a body that is unhealthy and the mind that is ill one cannot proceed further on this arduous journey. It is for the maintenance of this health of the body and the mind that Patanjali speaks of abstinences (yama) and observances (niyama).

    Yoga: the Art of Integration, page 144

Student in Swastikasana

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?”

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