Yamas and Niyamas: the values of Yoga
Yamas and Niyamas are essential values for a yoga lifestyle, although nowadays schools don’t teach them. Knowing and understanding these values is an essential step to understanding the whole life of yoga and its vital message.
What happens is that, after practicing yoga for a while, it is inevitable to start questioning if there is more of the amazing culture behind this strong practice. The philosophy that is the seed of all the yoga practice, and also the entire Hindu world, is endlessly.
Therefore, we start with a brief presentation of these values, to draw the big picture of their role in the whole philosophy of yoga.
Yamas and Niyamas: what are the values of Yoga?
Yamas and Niyamas are both sets of values. Let’s start by understanding their differences.
Yama means to control and command and works as a first step to get control of life and mind. These values have the goal to purify the yogin, restrain the egocentrism and prepare the person to the next levels. They master the natural impulses, that manifest through the five senses, arms, legs, mouth, sexual organs, etc.
Niyamas are psychophysics prescriptions that comprehend five subjects with the goal of master the five organs of perception: eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin. This control addresses the organization of the person.
What are the Yamas?
There are five Yamas, the values which refer to the external ethics:
1. Ahimsa, the non-violence, is understood as no killing, no aggression and causing no harm to any other being.
2. Satya is the truth and consists of matching thoughts, words, and acts. Satya is to always look for the truth.
3. Asteya means non-stealing, lust or envy, and means not only the act but also to constrain the idea of it.
4. Brahmacharya, to keep the honor of the sexual energy, although there are multiple interpretations of this value.
5. Aparigraha, the non-possessiveness, which translates in generosity and detachment in relation to things and people.
What are the Niyamas?
Niyamas are also five values and refer to the internal ethics.
1. Saucam is cleansing and purity. The external purification includes a vegetarian diet, purification techniques and keeping the environment we live in organized and tidy. The internal purification is related to our thoughts.
2. Santosha, or contentment is about cultivating and the internal state of joy, independent from external circumstances.
3. Tapas, which means hot, ascended, determination, will and effort. The goal of that effort is to achieve a state of purification that allows people to take control of themselves despite the limited notions of the mind.
4. Svadhyaya which refers to the study of yoga and of the self, the reading of the scriptures and the practice.
5. Isvara pranidhana, to honor Isvara, the whole, and to deliver in the actions and their results to the order and the will that is superior to the individual.
Fulfilling these aspects of life and putting them into practice is a task for a long time, but considered necessary from the traditional way of living and teaching yoga. Although they might be challenging, it is clear that they can produce a lot of good. Understanding Yamas and Niyamas is an amazing step for those who want to go deeper in the yoga lifestyle.
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