The Yamas & Niyamas: a 4 Week Journey

Welcome to your extra month of The Path of Love: Coming Home to Yourself online course! From January 8th-February 4th 🙂

In this extra month we’ll be exploring the yamas and niyamas.

So, you might be wondering, what are the yamas and niyamas?

The yamas and niyamas are part of the eightfold path of yoga in The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. Centuries ago, the sage Patanjali laid out a kind of map – one that suggests not just asana and meditation but also attitudes and behaviors – to help guide you on your yogic or life path.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, written in sanskrit with multiple interpretations, may seem esoteric and impenetrable but the ancient manual contains essential advice for daily living.

The eightfold path of classical yoga suggests a program of ethical restraints or abstentions (yamas), lifestyle observances (niyamas), postures (asanas), breath control (pranayama), withdrawal of the senses (prahtyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and absorption into the Divine (samadhi).

The five yamas and five niyamas are the first two steps of the path. These are the ethical precepts, or core values, of yoga as well as its starting place – meant to be practiced before you do your very first Sun Salutation.

“The yamas are really about restraining behaviors that are motivated by grasping, aversion, hatred, and delusion; the niyamas are designed to create well-being for ourselves and others,” says Stephen Cope, a senior Kripalu teacher and the author of The Wisdom of Yoga.

People sometimes think of them as yogi’s Ten Commandments, but they aren’t concerned with right or wrong in an absolute sense. “There’s no thought of heaven or hell. It’s about avoiding behaviors that produce suffering and difficulty, and embracing those that lead to states of happiness.”

Rather than thinking of the yamas and niyamas as a mandatory “to-do list,” view them as invitations to act in ways that promote inner and outer peace.

They also provide a mirror in which to study your practice and your Self.

Viniyoga teacher and Yoga Sutra scholar Gary Kraftsow says they represent the qualities of an integrated human being.

You get there through practice, contemplation, meditation, and working to transform yourself. “The path of practice begins with understanding and refining the different dimensions of who you are, and it unfolds progressively, not all at once,” says Kraftsow. “The whole goal of yoga is Self-realization, which can also be called freedom.”

The yamas and niyamas give you infinite opportunities to truly transform your life.

In our first week of this course we’ll explore the first three yamas: ahimsa, satya and asteya.

Starting with Day 1: Do No Harm: The Art of Ahimsa