Yamas and Niyamas

The Yamas and Niyamas: A Key to Inner Peace

Welcome to the Dav Jones Yoga Guide on the Yamas and Niyamas! I’m Dav Jones, and I’m excited to provide some insight into the philosophies of the yoga practice. In this blog, we’re going to explore the first two limbs of the Raja Yoga concept, the Yama’s and the Niyama’s. Raja translates as ‘Royal or King.’ So the term ‘Raja Yoga’ is considered the most royal of paths towards self-realisation. The practice of Raja Yoga relates to the eight steps or limbs a yogi must focus on in order to reach enlightenment, or as the Raja Yoga practice explains it – ‘Samadhi.’

Other common terms that relate to Raja Yoga that you may have heard of are:

  • The Eight-Limbed Path
  • Ashtanga Yoga

Today we’ll cover the first two limbs of the Raja Yoga practice, their meanings and how you can implement these values into your daily lifestyle habits.

Understanding Yamas And Niyamas

  • Yamas

Yamas are like the moral ethical principles of how to behave in society/community. These morales are opportunities to create more peace and understanding between ourselves and others.

1. Ahimsa (Non-violence)

Ahimsa is all about being kind. It teaches us to avoid causing harm to ourselves and to others through what we do, say, or think. This principle encourages us to adopt a more gentle approach in how to live and interact with others. By practising non-violence, we learn to handle situations and relationships with care and consideration, leading to a more peaceful life. Embracing Ahimsa helps us spread positivity and compassion, making the world a better place one action at a time. My personal interpretation of Ahimsa which resonates with me is relating how gentle we can be with ourselves and with others.

2. Satya (Truthfulness)

The term ‘Sat’ literally translates as purity with certain translations describing ‘Sat’ as absolute truth on reality. Satya therefore asks us to be honest and make sure our words reflect our true feelings and thoughts. It’s about being truthful in a helpful, not harmful way. This honesty builds trust in our relationships, making them stronger and more open. When we practise Satya, we commit to clear and sincere communication, avoiding misunderstandings and fostering a climate of openness and respect. By being true to our words, we also become more authentic and trustworthy individuals.

3. Asteya (Non-stealing)

Asteya means much more than not stealing physical items. It involves respecting others’ time, space, and energy, ensuring that we do not take anything that isn’t given to us willingly. This principle promotes living a life where we only take what we truly need and what is offered to us freely. Practising Asteya leads to more respectful and fair interactions, helping us build a reputation of integrity and generosity. It teaches us the importance of valuing what belongs to others just as much as we value our belongings. My personal thoughts on Asteya is to practise giving rather than taking.

4. Brahmacharya (Moderation)

Brahmacharya promotes living a balanced life through moderation. This principle teaches us to avoid excess and find a middle ground in all aspects of our lives, whether it’s eating, working, or enjoying leisure activities. By practising moderation, we learn to appreciate what we have without overindulging, which can lead to a healthier and more focused life. Brahmacharya helps us maintain control over our impulses and make thoughtful choices, ensuring that we lead a balanced and fulfilling life. In regards to relationships, I find Brahmacharya particularly helpful in navigating my energies. I use the teachings of Brahmacharya to help nourish my relationships, to be honest with my energetic capacity in any given moment and to help reduce expectation with clear communication on my energetic needs.

5. Aparigraha (Non-possessiveness)

Aparigraha encourages us to let go of our desire to hoard things we don’t need. This principle teaches us to embrace simplicity and avoid greed. By not clinging to material things, we can free our minds from the burdens of excess and appreciate what we have. Aparigraha helps us focus on what truly matters in life, such as relationships and personal growth, rather than accumulating possessions. This approach not only simplifies our lives but also enriches them, making us more content and less distracted by material desires. With enough awareness of Aparigraha, this yama teaches us to become unattached and essentially creates freedom.

  • Niyamas

Niyamas focus on how we treat ourselves, influencing both our physical and mental needs in order to maintain health and longevity of life. They guide us to live better and create positive changes in our personal lives.

  1. Saucha (Purity)

Saucha teaches us to keep both our bodies and minds clean. This involves eating wholesome foods, maintaining cleanliness in our living spaces, and cultivating positive thoughts. It’s about more than just physical cleanliness; it’s also about keeping our mental space clear and positive. This practice helps reduce stress and increase overall happiness. By living according to Saucha, we strive to harmonise our external and internal environments, fostering both physical health and mental clarity. This is also a practice of ridding our body of accumulated toxins in order to create a body that feels light and energy can flow freely without obstruction and inertia. This cleanliness supports our well-being in many ways, making it easier for us to feel good about ourselves and interact positively with others.

2. Santosha (Contentment)

Santosha encourages us to find happiness in what we currently have, rather than always seeking more. It teaches us to appreciate the present and be grateful for the life we lead, which in turn, brings inner peace. This Niyama helps us see the abundance we already possess, steering us away from constant dissatisfaction. By practising Santosha, we learn to live in a state of thankfulness, which enhances our contentment and joy. Embracing this contentment does not mean stopping progress; instead, it helps us approach life with a peaceful heart, making everyday moments more fulfilling. Santosha is a practice where we get to choose how we want to feel.

3. Tapas (Discipline)

Tapas focuses on cultivating inner strength and the determination needed to pursue our goals. This discipline fuels our passion to persevere, even during challenging times, helping us grow stronger and more resilient. Tapas is like an internal fire that drives us to continue our efforts, enhancing our ability to overcome obstacles. By embracing Tapas, we commit to our personal growth and achievement, building stamina and willpower along the way. This practice is crucial for personal development as it turns challenges into opportunities for improvement and strength.

4. Svadhyaya (Self-study)

Svadhyaya involves introspection and learning more about ourselves. It encourages us to reflect on our actions and motivations, helping us understand our true desires and align our lives accordingly. Through practices like meditation, reading, and thoughtful reflection, we can deepen our self-awareness. This self-study enables us to live authentically and make decisions that truly reflect our values. By committing to Svadhyaya, we foster a deeper connection with ourselves, which helps guide our choices and actions in a more purposeful and satisfying direction.

5. Ishvara Pranidhana (Surrender)

Ishvara Pranidhana teaches us to stop trying to control everything and to trust that things will happen the way they’re supposed to. It’s about letting go and believing in a bigger plan. This idea can calm us down because it helps us worry less about things we can’t predict or control. When we practise Ishvara Pranidhana, we trust in something bigger than ourselves, which can be very soothing. This Niyama encourages us to accept life as it comes, peacefully and without stress, accepting things as they are right now.

Benefits of Practising Yamas and Niyamas

Yamas:-

  • Improved Relationships: Yamas such as Ahimsa (non-violence) and Satya (truthfulness) promote kindness, honesty, and compassion in interactions, leading to stronger and more trusting relationships.
  • Increased Self-awareness: Practising Yamas encourages introspection, helping individuals understand their actions, thoughts, and emotions better, which leads to greater self-awareness and self-control.
  • Stress Reduction: Aparigraha (non-possessiveness) and Asteya (non-stealing) minimise desires for excess and encourage contentment with what one has, reducing stress and anxiety about acquiring or losing possessions.
  • Personal Integrity: Living according to these ethical guidelines fosters a sense of integrity and moral character, which is respected and valued in social and professional circles.

Niyamas:-

  • Enhanced Physical and Mental Health: Saucha (purity) promotes cleanliness and healthful habits, which enhance both physical health and mental clarity.
  • Emotional Balance: Santosha (contentment) teaches acceptance and gratitude for one’s life as it is, fostering a stable and content state of mind, and reducing feelings of inadequacy or jealousy.
  • Resilience and Determination: Tapas (discipline) builds inner strength and determination, enabling individuals to face life’s challenges with resilience and persistence.
  • Greater Self-understanding: Svadhyaya (self-study) encourages continuous learning and self-reflection, leading to deeper self-understanding and a more aligned, authentic life.
  • Spiritual Growth: Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender) helps in developing a trusting attitude towards life and a deeper connection with a higher power, facilitating spiritual growth and inner peace.

Benefits of Practising Yamas and Niyamas

Starting with Yamas and Niyamas can change how you think and act in your day-to-day life. Here are some easy tips to help you get started:

  • Start with One: Focus on mastering one principle at a time, reflecting daily to assess your application and improvements.
  • Set Small Goals: Begin with achievable goals, like avoiding negative comments for a day, and keep a journal to track progress and challenges.
  • Join a Community: Participate in a group or yoga class that focuses on these practices to gain insights and encouragement.
  • Practice Consistently: Apply these principles daily, be patient with your progress, and over time, these habits will become more natural.

Final Thought

We’ve explored, highlighting the benefits in applying the Yama’s and Niyama’s into your daily lives. If you’re interested in more yoga philosophy, consider joining the Dav Jones online yoga classes on Patreon. If you’re looking for a more tailored/specific approach to your practice, then take a look at the Dav Jones Yoga mentorship program.

FAQS

Yamas and Niyamas are not exclusive to yoga practitioners; they are universal principles of ethics and personal growth that can benefit anyone seeking to improve their moral standards and personal development.

Practical ways to practise Tapas include establishing disciplined daily routines, engaging in challenging physical or mental activities, and consistently persevering through difficult tasks to foster inner strength and determination.

Svadhyaya is a form of self-study focused on personal and spiritual growth. It involves reflecting on oneself and studying spiritual texts to gain deeper insights, differing from regular study which often targets academic knowledge.

Ahimsa, or non-violence, can be practised daily by nurturing kindness and compassion in our thoughts, words, and actions toward others and ourselves. This mindful approach promotes peace and respect in our interactions and personal reflections.

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