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Yamas and Niyamas

Yamas and niyamas are ethical guidelines for living. Yamas are considered the "outer" observance. Niiyamas are the "inner" observances - a guide for living soulfully. Patanjali teaches that there are 5 yamas and 5 niyamas while other traditions teach that there are ten of each.

I'll be adding to this list as we go along....

Yamas (observances)

Ahimsa: Non-violence, non-harming (do no harm, the avoidance of violence). You can apply this first to yourself in your physical yoga practice, then to your thoughts and actions, and continue to broaden it many other ways, to include all living beings.

Satya: Truthfulness or honesty. As satya is achieved, the fruits of actions naturally result.

Asteya: Non-stealing, abstension from theft.

Brahmacharya: Walking in awareness of the highest reality, remembering the divine.

Aparigraha: Non-possessiveness, non-holding through senses, non-greed, non-grasping, non-indulgence, non-acquisitiveness.

Niyamas (observances)

Saucha or shaucha: Purity or cleanliness. This is both internal and external. It's how we treat our bodies and our energies (internal) and how we treat our environment (external).

Santosha: Contentment. Be content with what you attain. Accept where you are. The quality of contentment leads to inner peace. We find that what we need is right here in the moment, no matter if this moment is easy or difficult.

Tapas: Disclipline, training the senses, fire or heat. Centering in the awareness of your practice with both disclipine and enthusiasm. You might view it as a way to cleanse the mind and body of the daily residue that may color your perceptions.

Svadhyaya: The study of one's self; careful self-observation; turning inward. In the pause after a pose (asana), ask yourself, "What's changed?". Build self-awareness. The focus is internal, self-knowledge. Allows you to avoid competing with others in the room and to prevent injuries.

Ishvara Pranidhana: Surrender to life. Live an expression of all these attitudes (niyamas). Celebrate your aliveness and surrender to it.


Mary Esther Middleton

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