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The Yamas & Niyamas

December 09, 2020

The Yamas & Niyamas

The Yamas (restraints) & Niyamas (observances) form part of the very important eight limbs of yoga as recorded by the Sage Patanjali. They are accepted as moral guidelines that encourage honesty and truth.

They relate directly to your behaviour towards yourself and others. Incorporating these principals into day to day living will have a positive impact on your yoga practice and also your peace of mind.


The Yoga Sutra's of Patanjali list five yamas, or moral restraints, which apply specifically to outward behaviour towards other beings.

  • Ahimsa - Non-Violence.
  • Satya – Truthfulness.
  • Asteya - Non-Stealing.
  • Brahmacharya – Moderation.
  • Aparigraha - Non-Hoarding.

Ahimsa (Non-violence)

Do not harm yourself or others in thought, action or deed.

Satya (Truthfulness)

Be truthful to yourself and others, Satya includes right speech and truthful communication, as well as skilful listening. Abstaining from gossip would also fall under Satya.

Asteya (Non-stealing)

Do not take what doesn’t belong to you. Do not take that which you haven’t earned. This applies to material things, as well as respecting others’ time, energy and hard work.

Asteya also means balance between give and take.

Brahmacharya (Moderation)

Brahmacharya is often described as moderation and having everything in moderation.

In classical yoga, brahmacharya refers specifically to sexual moderation. Being faithful to your partner would be a form of brahmacharya.

Aparigraha (Non-hoarding)

Considering what you really need. Don’t take so much that others don’t have enough.

Don’t be possessed by your possessions.


Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra lists five niyamas, or observances, which apply specifically to how you conduct yourself on a more personal level.

  • Saucha – Cleanliness.
  • Santosha – Contentment.
  • Tapas - Self Discipline.
  • Svadhyaya - Self Study.
  • Isvara-pranidhana – Surrender.

Saucha (Cleanliness)

This refers to cleanliness in all areas of your life, environment, living space, body, mind, speech, good hygiene and also clean choices regarding the information that you are inputting into your life.

Clean company - spend time with people who uplift your spirit and inspire you to be your best and set clear boundaries.

Santosha (Contentment)

Remind yourself often, “I have enough. I am enough”.

Santosha also means being present. Rather than wishing for things to be different in your life, accept and appreciate the reality of what is.

Ask yourself the following, do you really need things to be different to be happy? Choose to be happy now.

Tapas (Self Discipline)

In yoga the term tapas refers to heat, it is this inner heat that encourages you to roll out your yoga mat. Tapas drives your determination and creates motivation as well as self-discipline. It is this self discipline that encourages positive behaviour and transformation.

Svadhyaya (Self Study)

Svadhaya includes studying of yoga texts and scriptures, as well as drawing on lessons learnt to encourage a more positive outlook and mindset. Through Svadhaya you are developing your higher self.

“The person practicing svadhyaya reads his own book of life, at the same time that he writes and revises it.”  B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga

Isvara-pranidhana (Surrender)

Isvara-pranidhana means letting go of doubt and making room for faith or trust. Trust your higher self, for some this would be applied to personal beliefs such as a religion or faith.

This blog article was written by Sue Fuller creator of the Yoga 2 Hear range of audio yoga classes and yoga teacher training courses.

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