These are the essential foundation for anyone who wants to practice yoga, since without these no real spiritual progress can be made along the path.
Many people think of yoga only as a physical exercise and it is only later that they start understanding the profound spiritual effects it has in our lives.
To establish the actual spiritual effects upon our mind it is important to embed them into our deep consciousness, as they form bedrock of an ethical behavior.
Our practice hence begins by incorporating these Yamas and Niyamas in our day to day lives.
Yamas: The Precepts of our Social Discipline
Ahimsa – or Non-violence. This essentially means living with an attitude of not consciously harming others (people as well as other living beings). It also means being kind and nor harming one-self. Not harming our environment and having tolerance even for anything that we dislike.
Satya – means “Truthfulness”. Even if we sometimes know that our words are true in the literal sense, but if they do not convey the truth it is being untrue. “Satya” is not even intending to deceive anyone in our thoughts, and by our words or actions.
Asteya – This means “Non-stealing”. We must not even think of taking anything which has not been given to us or does not belong to us.
Brahmacharya – means “Sexual responsibility & abstinence”. We must regard others as fellow human beings and not just as male or female bodies meant for pleasure. The aim of this is conservation of our energies for spiritual practices without pondering over things that are alluring. It includes not just the sexual restraint, but also conserving energy by restraint on pursuits like aimless chattering without a meaningful purpose.
Aparigraha – This means “Abstention from greed” i.e. not coveting anything that is not ours. It also means avoidance of un-necessary acquisitions that are not essential for spiritual study.
Niyamas: The precepts of self-Discipline
Sauch or Cleanliness. It refers not only to the external cleanliness, but also trying to do internal cleanliness; by avoiding the impurities like anger & egoism. It also means we must observe moderation in diet.
Santosha – “Contentment”. This means acceptance of situations that we encounter in this life.
Tapas meaning “Austerity”. This is done by deep commitment to the practice of yoga. Leading a simple life in the path to spiritualism.
Svadhyaya or “Self study”. This implies self-education in the field of spiritual knowledge and application of the Holy Scriptures and sacred texts in our chosen path.
Ishvara pranidhana meaning Surrender of self to God. This is essentially an acknowledgement of a higher power in our universe and shifting of focus to that power rather than on own small self. It means living our lives with modesty and humility.