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Yamas and Niyamas constitute yogic main moral principles and codes of conduct. They first appeared in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as the first 2 out of 8 “limbs” of yoga. “Limbs” here mean integral parts of the Raja Yoga system as outlined by Patanjali.
Yamas (1-5) and Niyamas (6-10) are seen as guidelines and recommendations and not as commandments or rules. They are not supposed to moralize or make one feel like a sinner when not obeyed, but rather they are there to aid in self-development and support one on the way towards self-realization.
1. Ahimsa – Non-violence
Non-violence in thought, word, and action is the highest priority for a yogi. Peacefulness is the key to a better world and it is based upon the idea that all life is sacred. Fear, weakness, ignorance, and suffering are the causes of violence. A yogi understands this and feels compassion to those who are violent, trying to do his/her best to eradicate the root of violence with love.
2. Satyam – Truthfulness
Truthfulness in though is born out of purity of mind and being honest with the self. Truthfulness in word is achieved by not lying. Truthfulness in action requires a balance between the adherence to one’s principles and remaining flexible to the changing necessities of the present moment.
3. Asteya – Non-stealing
Not taking what is not given. Non-stealing requires one to cultivate a sense of self-sufficiency, gratitude, and contentment with what one has. Simple living is the best practice of asteya.
4. Brachmacharya – Sexual Continence
To diminish the loss of vital energies and to develop more meaningful love relationships it is advised to cut back on promiscuity.
5. Aparigraha – Detachment
Not being dependent on our belongings, living simply and without excessive sensual indulgence. Also, preserving a balanced state of mind in all circumstances, facing the life with a detached attitude of a witness.
6. Saucha – Purity
Purity in the body and mind. Keeping our bodies clean and our environment orderly we create circumstances in which clarity of thought is possible.
7. Santosha – Contentment
Not trying to become happy by satisfying our countless desires, but rather developing a sense of contentment with life as it already is, cherishing the gifts that are there in each moment as the life unfolds, grateful for what comes our way.
8. Tapas – Austerity
Developing a type of perseverance, passion, and discipline that brings us closer to self-realization and gives us better tools to serve those we love and the humanity in general.
9. Svadhyaya – Self-study
Becoming aware of the the self, learning what guides, motivates, and drives us, what our intentions are, what are deepest fears are, and what subconscious activators prevent us from being truly free in our thoughts, words, and actions.
10. Ishwarapranidhana – Surrender
Learning to surrender to what is, to a moment, to a lover, to a friend. Trusting that whatever happens is there for a reason, accepting each situation as it comes, with an open mind and and an open heart.