Yama & Niyama

The first two limbs of the ‘8 Limbs of Yoga’ are Yama and Niyama. They are both five guidelines to how to live well. Once you learn them you’ll realise that in many ways you already practice Yoga. The Yamas and Niyamas are the first of the 8 limbs because it will be foundation of your practice. The more you are able to commit to these guidelines, the easier the rest of your practice become. I’ve never met anyone who disagree with these guidelines, because its essentially all about coming back to our true nature.

First the Yamas:
Ahimsa – Non-violence or non-harming
Satya – Truthfulness
Asteya – Non-Stealing
Brahmacharya – Right use of Energy
Aparigraha – Non-Greed or non-hoarding

Although it seems pretty straight forward when you look at it like this, it goes much deeper than you might think. For example, when you look at Ahimsa – non-violence or non-harming, most people will think about the direct action of being violent or harm someone. What about the way you think, eat, drink, say and how you move your own body. There is the direct harm we cause, and there is the indirect harm. For instance, how was the clothes you last bought produced? Or how was the food you last ate produced? Did it cause harm to the planet or workers?

Don’t worry, we’re not perfect, and these guidelines are not here to put us to shame or fill us with guilt. In fact, if we let that happen, we put harm to ourselves(!) So, relax and use these guidelines to enhance your awareness and change your behaviour towards wellness.

You may wonder why this is important for a yogic practice. So, yoga means union and it means breaking the illusion of separation between subject and object. Experiencing life as one. Albert Einstein understood what yogis have known for millennia’s. All energy is the same energy, yet we experience life in the dimensions of inner and outer world. Yoga is about not only seeing, but experiencing the outer and inner world as one and the same. The behaviour that the yamas are guiding us away from are behaviour that enhance the experience of separation. For instance, had we experienced everyone as the same as us we would not harm them in any way. We wouldn’t lie, we wouldn’t steal, hoard or spend our energy trying to fill a void(as we would already feel complete). So by practicing the yamas, we are synchronising our lives with the truth.

The Niyamas are:
Saucha – Cleanliness
Santosha – Contentment
Tapas – Discipline
Savdhyaya – Study of the self
Isvara Pranidhana – Surrender to a higher being or higher power

As the yamas are more directed at how we interact with the outer world, the niyamas are more focused on the self. You may also notice the yamas are about what not to do and the niyamas are more what to do.

As you practice these more, you’ll notice how the rest of your yoga practice will enhance greatly. In hatha yoga we strive to become balanced, and by practicing the yamas and niyamas we live a life that do not cause inner conflicts, delusion and attachments, so your life become more harmonious and balanced.

Niyamas – Santosha

Santosha is the second of the five Niyamas and it means contentment. To practice Santosha does not mean to be content with everything and for that reason not seeing a reason to do anything. The way I see it, it’s more about finding accept and not leaning your peace and happiness towards external factors.

I andre bok av Yoga Sutras, sutra nr. 42 står: 

“By contentment, supreme joy is gained”

When we talk about ‘contentment’, we are talking about being satisfied, regardless of what happens outside of ourselves. Our happiness does not come from outside, so external situations will not affect our satisfaction. What comes may come, and if it does not come, it does not matter..

One person is born in a big city and another is born in a slum. The reason is karma. It is our actions from the past that create reactions. So one should be satisfied regardless of the situations we are thrown into.

The first step to achieving perfection is to realize that no matter how we feel, it is our own responsibility. Many people blame everything for their own dissatisfaction and misery, but we must realize that we have created it ourselves. To blame anything but ourselves for not being happy and perfect is to relinquish responsibility for our own lives. If I were to make a recipe for how to get depressed, then this would be step 1. Once we have understood that our perfection is our responsibility, we must see that our problems and challenges are like the tests and exams we had at school. Once you have learned what you are going to learn, the exam is easy, and we finish the subject. If we have not learned what we are supposed to, the exam becomes difficult, we do not pass and we have to sit for the exam again. In the same way, you will notice that challenges may come more or less the same, time and time again. If life’s challenges remain the same, it only means that you have not learned what you need to get ahead. With this perspective, we can rather face challenges with open arms, and perhaps even with courage and curiosity. When we no longer have an opposition to life’s challenges, contentment will not be far away.

By mastering contentment, one will achieve the highest form of joy.