Yama And Niyama The Foundation Stones Of Yoga

Yama And Niyama The Foundation Stones Of Yoga



Yoga is​ more popular now than it​ has ever been. Famous entertainers and other celebrities practice it​ and thousands or​ perhaps millions of​ other people are also doing yoga exercises in​ one form or​ another. Yet,​ despite this widespread popularity,​ yoga is​ still misunderstood. Many people think that yoga is​ primarily a​ physical activity,​ something that they can use to​ get their body in​ shape. While it​ is​ true that yoga has a​ great role to​ play in​ the​ physical realm,​ yoga is​ much more than this.

Yoga is,​ in​ its deepest sense,​ the​ science of​ human perfection. it​ is​ the​ means by which a​ person can attain his or​ her fullest development: physical,​ mental and spiritual.

Human perfection? This is​ a​ tall order. it​ does not come with just a​ few stretches of​ your thighs. While yoga has its external practices and exercises,​ its true foundation is​ proper conduct. Proper conduct means living a​ life that will put you in​ harmony with the​ society around you and with your own inner self.

When I first began practicing yoga,​ I told one of​ my friends about it. He became interested and wanted to​ begin. I wasn’t a​ teacher at​ that time so I recommended a​ book. He looked at​ me and said,​ with all seriousness,​ “Where can I steal it!”

Well,​ you can’t begin yoga like that because stealing is​ not a​ way to​ get in​ harmony with society or​ with yourself. in​ yoga disciplined or​ controlled conduct is​ known by its Sanskrit term,​ “samyama” and this controlled conduct has two parts “Yama” and “Niyama.”

In many yoga books Yama is​ sometimes defined as​ “abstinences,​” meaning things that you shouldn’t do. Niyama is​ sometimes translated as​ “observances,​” referring to​ things that you should do. These rough translations are not quite correct.

A better way to​ understand Yama is​ to​ think of​ it​ as​ a​ discipline that will help you to​ find harmony with your external environment. Niyama,​ on​ the​ other hand,​ are those practices that will help you to​ attain internal harmony.

Let’s look briefly at​ the​ various parts of​ Yama and Niyama. in​ future articles of​ this series I will focus in​ more detail on​ each aspect of​ Yama and Niyama.

Yama has five parts. They are as​ follows.

1. “Ahimsa” means to​ refrain from harming others with your thoughts,​ words or​ actions. Consciously we​ should not do anything that will harm others or​ block their physical,​ mental or​ spiritual progress. if​ you want a​ two or​ three-word English definition of​ this Sanskrit word just remember “non injury” or​ “non-harming.” But there is​ more to​ Ahimsa than just two words. What about self-defense? What about our relations to​ other living beings? These are important issues and there are a​ variety of​ viewpoints. I will discuss them at​ length in​ the​ next article in​ this series.

2. “Sayta” is​ generally referred to​ as​ truthfulness. a​ better definition given by Shrii Shrii Anandamurti is​ “action of​ mind and right use of​ words with the​ spirit of​ welfare.” Whatever we​ think or​ say should be done with the​ spirit of​ helping others. it​ generally means to​ tell the​ truth,​ but if​ the​ exact truth will create harm to​ someone,​ then we​ have to​ choose our words carefully. That is​ why a​ good two-word definition would be “discriminating truthfulness.”

3. “Asteya” means non-stealing. we​ should not take possession of​ something that is​ owned by another. we​ should not even think of​ stealing something and we​ should also refrain from depriving others of​ what they are due.

4. “Brahmacarya” literally means to​ “remain attached to​ Brahma (the Supreme Consciousness). the​ idea of​ this practice is​ to​ treat every living and non-living entity as​ an​ expression of​ God.

5. “Aparigraha” is​ defined as​ non-accumulation of​ physical objects that are superfluous to​ our needs. According to​ your circumstances you should acquire what you need to​ live your life,​ but you should not accumulate luxuries that go beyond your real needs.

These are the​ five parts of​ Yama.

Just as​ there are five aspects of​ yama,​ niyama is​ also composed of​ five principles. Practice these five and you will achieve inner harmony. Briefly,​ they are as​ follows:

1. “Shaoca” (pronounced: Sha-o-cha) means cleanliness and purity. Keep your environment clean and your thoughts pure. the​ old proverb says “Cleanliness is​ next to​ Godliness” and it​ is​ true.

2. “Santosha” is​ contentment of​ mind. Work hard,​ do the​ best you can,​ and then remain contented with what you have.

3. “Tapah” signifies the​ practice of​ penance to​ reach the​ goal. it​ doesn’t mean suffering for the​ sake of​ suffering. Rather,​ look around and you will find people with difficulties. Take on​ some of​ the​ burdens of​ others and you will not only help society but your own inner self will be purified.

4. “Svadhyaya” is​ the​ study and true understanding of​ uplifting literature. Whenever possible seek out the​ company of​ spiritually minded people. When that is​ not possible read and absorb the​ teachings contained in​ books written by enlightened teachers.

5. “Iishvara Pranidhana” literally means to​ take shelter in​ the​ controller of​ the​ universe. it​ is​ practiced through daily meditation on​ the​ ultimate goal of​ life.

In the​ following articles of​ this series I will explain each part of​ Yama and Niyama with more detail.




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