WHAT ARE THE YAMAS & NIYAMAS?

by JENNIFERLYN CHIEMINGO

I remember back when I started practicing and studying Yoga in 2000 while I lived in San Francisco. I was enjoying the physical benefits of yoga, but the rest of it seemed a little ‘hippy’ to me. I was attracted to the physical and when teachers spoke of the 8-limbed path or ‘ethical practices’ I honestly tuned out. Why would it matter to ME? It didn’t seem relevant to now, to me personally.

A few years back, I was introduced to the book, ‘The Secret Power of Yoga’ by Nischala Joy Devi. A book, written by a woman, that breaks down the Yoga Sutras and 8-Limbs of Yoga in a way that makes sense for everyday life.

Now, I try to create a space in my classes where I introduce yogic philosophy to students in an ‘approachable’ way. To me, the 8-limbs of yoga suggest a way to live a more fruitful, easeful life. Something like, ‘if you follow these steps the world will be better and YOU will feel better.’

The Limb 1 and 2 are the Yamas and Niyamas. Often these are referred to as ‘Ethical Practices.’ I like to say they are suggestions for how to treat yourself and others. They are ways to discover and rediscover how amazing we really are as humans. Here’s a look:

Yamas – these allow us a space to be happy with ourselves and others!

    1. Embracing Reverence and Love for all – Ahimsa (sometimes referred to as non-violence)
    2. Devoting to Truth and Integrity – Satya (being honest, always)
    3. Giving Generously and Honestly – Astheya (sometimes referred to as not stealing)
    4. Living a Balanced Life – Brahmacharya (sometimes referred to as being celibate)
    5. Believing in Abundance – Aparigraha – (sometimes referred to as not being greedy)

Niyamas – these allow us to improve from the inside out!

    1. Devotion to Simplicity and Purity – Saucha (sometimes referred to as ‘being clean’)
    2. Finding Contentment – Santosha (Finding peace)
    3. Discipline to Reveal your Inner Light – Tapas (sometimes referred to as lighting the inner fire or heat)
    4. Self Study of the Divine in oneself – Swadhaya (learning about and loving yourself)
    5. Surrender to the Divine – Iswara Pranidhana (believing in something greater)

Often, historic doctrine has to be altered slightly to be applicable to today’s world. Which may be why items like Brahmacharya and Saucha are redefined or looked at in a different way for the current times. The truth is, if we combine a physical practice with things like being kind, honesty, believing there is enough for everyone, etc – aren’t we creating COMMUNITY or UNION? The definition of Yoga is to create UNION: union of breath and movement, union of mind and body, union of you and the Divine, union of you and other people.

The first two limbs of yoga aim to create this connection. hauteyoga Queen Anne demonstrates this community, this union every day.

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