What are the Niyamas?

Published on 25 June 2020 at 14:38

Previously we had the following questions:


What is the meaning of Yama?

What are the Yamas? How many are there?

What do the Yama's mean to you?

Do you integrate them into your yoga practice? Or maybe your life? If so, how? 


As a reference I use the following three texts:
Yoga Yajnavalkya by Translated by AG Mohan

The Science of Yoga by IK Taimini

Clearing the Path by Stephen Parker 


There are 5 Yamas:
Ahimsa : not wilfully inflicting any injury, suffering or pain on any living creature, by word, thought or action. 

Satya : truthfullnes; strict avoidance of all exagerations, equivocations, pretence and similar faults which are involved in saying or doing things which are not in strict accordance with what we know as true. 

Asteya : abstaining from stealing or misappropriation of all kinds. 

Brahmacharya : There are different views here: Som texts say complete abstinence and freedom from all kinds of sensual enjoyments (including sex). Other texts give an explanation depending on your position in society, for example monk, householder etc. Yoga Yajnavaklya also mentions that serving your guru at all times also is said to be brahmacharya. 
Tantric view is control of sexual energy, which means transmuting your sexual/creative energy towards connection with the Divine. 
Essentially it is not so much about controlling our sexual energy, but about controlling our minds. All yogic and tantric techniques start by controlling something in your reach, in order to grow towards controlling your mind, to go beyond your mind and finally merge with Mind/Divine/Purusha/Shiva. 

Aparigraha non possessiveness. 


It is interesting to notice that Yoga Yajnavalkya there are ten yamas:





daya : kindness, compassoin

arjava : sincerity, straightness and non-hypocrisy

ksama : equality towards all things

dhrti : steadiness of mind in difficult situations

mitahara : controlled diet

sauca : purity, external (body) and internal (mind). 


Yama may be translated as 'ethical restraint' or 'vows of self-restraint' or observances and behaviours. 

It doesn't matter too much which translation you consider, the yamas clearly have to do with how we relate to others since there must usually be someone or something towards which we practice them. 
This means that they are intrinsically relational. 


On top of that, yama, or ethical restraints (towards others) are placed first on the list towards Self Realization. 

Stephen Parker writes:

From beginning to end, Yoga is about relationship. It is very easy to become self absorbed in our Yoga practice, making it all about 'me' or 'my enlightenment'. But just as we share our life with others, we also share our practice and our realization with others, whether we recognize it or not. Both our joy and our pain, and others' joy and pain, are somewhat functions of each other. ... Because our Being is inherently relational, when relationship is denied, our individual samskaras (impressions) darken, and our collective shadow looms large. 

We know whether we are acting skillfully in our lives based on our relationships with others, and the result of our actions are more far-reaching than we often realize. 


One thing to bear in mind is to be weary of approaching yamas as rules. This approach, as Parker says so beautifully, ignores one's inner awareness and can lead to behaviour that is violent towards ourselves and others. 

The first yama, Ahimsa, is first on the list, as the others are merely extentions of that attitude.
The yamas are observances/restraints that implies we 'do' them. That we practice them. But how? What is the technique? One thing is to read something and say you are doing it. Another thing is actually doing it, acually having it as an integral part of your life. 

Parker suggests to become deeply aware. Study and become aware of yourself. Your suffering, your behaviour, your thoughts and feelings. So by gradually, through awareness, getting closer to your true Self, you will at the same time attune and become aware of 'the other' who in fact is one and the same Self. 


This only covers the first limb of the eight!

The second limb is also about observances and restraints. These are also described in the second part of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. 

New homework!


What is the meaning of Niyama?

What are the Niyamas? How many are there?

What do the Niyama's mean to you?

Do you integrate them into your yoga practice? Or maybe your life? If so, how? 


Enjoy this week's exploration!

Leave your findings in the comments below. Or we can discuss during Chat & Chai. 

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