Introduction to the Yamas & Niyamas

The Yamas and Niyamas are the 10 fundamental practices of YOGA, the scientific path for Self-Realization. By ‘fundamental’ I mean to say that these practices form the foundation of all Yoga practices, and no Yoga practice is complete without them.

The Yamas are:

1. Ahimsa: non-violence

2. Satya: truthfulness

3.Asteya: non-stealing

4. Bramhacharya: self-restraint (mental and physical), as pertains to sexuality

5. Aparigraha: non-hoarding, non-greediness

The Niyamas are:

1. Sauca: cleanliness, both internal and external (mental and physical)

2. Santosh: contentment

3. Tapas: austerity and self-discipline

4. Swadhyaya: self-study

5. Ishwarpranidhana: surrendering personal will to the Supreme Self

Just as there are many ways to render a Raga (melodic scale) in Indian music, similarly there are many ways to interpret the Yamas and Niyamas. However, this does not mean that just ‘any’ interpretation will do. The ‘doing’ (in the case, of the Yamas and Niyamas) is always in our actions (thoughts and deeds), and unless these principles are translated into our daily actions, one has not correctly ‘interpreted’ them.

Unless these principles are truly put into practice, Self-Realization, or perfection in Yoga is impossible. Likewise, unless these basic practices (particularly the Yamas) are engaged in constantly, a human being becomes a dysfunctional person and can never find true peace in this world or the next.

There are people who talk about and write about these principles but never fully practice them. There are some misinformed persons who refer to these principles as the first two ‘steps’ of Yoga and believe these principles are applicable only to novices on the path. The intelligent, however, realize Yoga, and indeed, life itself, is comprised of ‘limbs’ which together comprise a homogenous whole. In this respect, we can say that the Yamas are the ‘feet’ and Niyamas the ‘legs’ of Yoga; or (leaving aside the discussion of Yoga for a moment) these principles and practices are the foundation and supporting structure of Life.

Those who practice Yoga without practicing the Yamas and Niyamas have neither feet to stand on nor legs to support them, and can never go very far with their Yoga practices. Likewise, without the practice of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, godly character (as opposed to ‘dog-ly’ character’), and non-piggishness it is impossible for any human being to be truly happy in this world. And without the practice of purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-introspection and observation, and renouncing one’s false pride and vanity (that is, giving up one’s ego), it is NOT possible to remain healthy and happy and reach one’s full potential in life.

The purpose in discussing the Yamas and Niyamas is to impress upon our minds the necessity of applying these fundamental practices in every aspect of our existence. We have begun this discussion with Ahimsa (non-violence), which is the essence of all those that follow.

Arya Putra

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