Understanding Yamas and Niyamas, the first two Limbs of Patanjali Yoga

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Our Yoga expert and Associate Editor, Navodita, discusses aspects of the first two limbs of the philosophic Yoga tree that Patanjali describes as Yamas and Niyamas. These two codes of conduct are suggestions of how we should deal with around us and how we can optimally shape our attitude and behavior. The attitude we have toward and things outside ourselves are the Yamas, how we relate to ourselves inward are the Niyamas. Read more, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.

Yoga is much more than just physical exercises as we all know and it’s important to look beyond the physical realm to understand the true power of Yoga. We discussed the concept of ‘Aparigraha’ or non-accumulation few weeks back. Today, we discuss the other aspects of the first two limbs of the philosophic Yoga tree that Patanjali describes as Yamas and Niyamas. These two codes of conduct are suggestions of how we should deal with people around us and how we can optimally shape our attitude and behavior. The attitude we have toward people and things outside ourselves are the Yamas, how we relate to ourselves inward are the Niyamas.

The Yamas are broken down into five wise ‘characteristics’- Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya, andAparigraha. These tell us and draw us closer to our real selves and tell us that our true nature is , generous, honest and peaceful. They are the moral virtues which, if followed, contribute to health and happiness of the individual and society.

Ahimsa implies compassion for all living beings. It is more than just lack of violence as adapted in Yoga. It means kindness, friendliness, thoughtful consideration of other people and things. It also implies that in every situation we should adopt a considerate attitude and do no harm.

Satya means a commitment to truthfulness, for being untruthful could harm one unnecessarily. We have to consider what we say, how we say it, and in what way it could affect others. If speaking the truth has consequences for another, then it is better to say nothing. Satya should never come into conflict with our efforts to behave with Ahimsa. This precept is based on the that honest communication and action form the bedrock of any healthy relationship, community or government, and that deliberate deception, exaggerations, and mistruths harm others.

Asteya means ‘non-stealing’ or not taking anything that hasn’t been given freely or honouring other’s trust in us. It literally means to take nothing that does not belong to us. This also means that if someone entrusts something to us or confides in us, we do not take advantage of him or her.

Finally, Brahmacharya means a sense of abstinence. It suggests that we should form relationships that foster our understanding of the higher truths. It means responsible behavior towards our goal of truth.

Aparigraha, as explained earlier implies letting go of our attachments to things and understanding that impermanence and change are our only constants.

Niyamas are more intimate and personal. These include Shaucha, Santosha, Tapas, Svadhyaya, andIshvarapranidhana.

Shaucha means purity or cleanliness. Outer cleanliness means keeping ourselves clean and doing Yoga and Pranayama, while inner cleanliness has much to do with the clarity and purity of the mind.

Santosha means having a sense of modesty and the feeling of being content with what we have. Santosha means being happy with what we have rather than being unhappy with what we don’t have. Accepting that there is a purpose for everything – it is called Karma.

Tapas refers to the burning enthusiasm to learn and understand how all facets of life are tools for self-realisation. Another form of tapas is paying to body posture, eating habits, breathing patterns, and generally honouring the body as a vehicle that contains our life-force makes human existence possible.

Svadhyaya refers to the inquiry or ‘examination’ and teaches us to burn out unwanted and self-destructive tendencies so we can live in balance with all aspects of our being. It means to intentionally find self-awareness in all our activities.

Ishvarapranidhana means to lay all your actions at the feet of God. The practice requires that we set aside sometime each day to recognise each day that there is some omnipresent force larger than ourselves that is guiding and directing the course of our lives.

We, thus, see how Yoga can be integrated into our daily lives in little ways, in carrying out our day-to-day affairs. It is not just rolling down the mat and exercising but a lifestyle which, when adopted can then lead to peace, contentment, and happiness. Isn’t that what we all want? Yoga takes you closer to a more fulfilling life with cordial relationships and excellent feeling of yourself.

©Navodita Pande

Photos from the internet.

#Yoga #PantajaliYoga #InnerPeace #Asana #Karma #RulesOfYoga #LifeOfYoga #HolisticHealth #DifferentTruths

Navodita Pande

Navodita Pande

Navodita Pande has been practicing yoga since she was 9 years old in Iyengar Yoga. In April 1995, she performed at the International Yoga Seminar. In January 2003, Navodita taught at Hare Rama Hare Krishna Mandir in New York. Navodita had a Yoga show on NDTV 24x7 and was also the official yoga trainer for Miss Delhi contestants in 2007. She currently teaches Yoga and Reiki to
people in Kanpur.
Navodita Pande
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