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Yamas and Niyamas

Namaste Principal Doctrines Yamas and Niyamas

The yamas and niyamas have been preserved through the centuries as the foundation, the first and
second stage, of the eight-staged practice of yoga: yama niyama asana pranayama
pratyahara dharana dhyana samadhi. Yet, they are fundamental to all beings, expected
aims of everyone in society, and assumed to be fully intact for anyone seeking life's highest aim in
the pursuit called yoga.
Table of Contents
The Ten Yamas and Ten Niyamas
YAMAS The 10 Vedic Restraints
YAMA 1 Ahimsa, Non-harming
YAMA 2 Satya, Truthfulness
YAMA 3 Asteya, Nonstealing
YAMA 4 Brahmacharya, Divine Conduct
YAMA 5 Kshama, Patience
YAMA 6 Dhriti, Steadfastness
YAMA 7 Daya, Compassion
YAMA 8 Arjava, Honesty
YAMA 9 Mitahara, Moderate Appetite
YAMA 10 Shauca, Purity
NIYAMAS The 10 Vedic Observances
NIYAMA 1 Hri, Remorse
NIYAMA 2 Santosha, Contentment
NIYAMA 3 Dana, Giving
NIYAMA 4 Astikya, Faith
NIYAMA 5 Ishvarapujana, Worship
NIYAMA 6 Siddhanta Shravana, Scriptural Listening
NIYAMA 7 Mati, Cognition
NIYAMA 8 Vrata, Sacred Vows
NIYAMA 9 Japa, Recitation
NIYAMA 10 Tapas, Austerity
Sage Patanjali (ca 200 bce), raja yoga's foremost propounder, told us,
"These yamas are not limited by class, country, time (past, present or future) or
situation. Hence they are called the universal great vows."
These terms are translated as effort and relaxation or exertion and rest. This stage consists in
mastering fundamental ethic and psycho-hygienic rules of a spiritual seekers life.
"When a yogin becomes qualified by practicing Yama and Niyama, then the yogin can
proceed to asana and the other means."
Yoga Bhashya Vivarana (II.29)

The yamas and niyamas are a common-sense code recorded in the final section of the Vedas, called

Upanishads, namely the Shandilya and the Varuha. They are also found in the Hatha Yoga Pra
dipika by Gorakshanatha, the Tirumantiram of Tirumular and in the Yoga Sutras of |Sage Patanjali.
Traditionally, ten yamas and ten niyamas are found mentioned in texts such as
Trishikhibrahmanopanishad (Mantra part), Darshanopanishad, and Yoga Yajnyavalkya. In other
authoritative texts like the Yoga Sutra, Vishnu Purana only five yamas and five niyamas have been
mentioned. On the whole, the yamas may be said to have greater importance. As explained in the
"one must always follow the yamas without any exception; one gets ruined if he follows
the niyamas alone, ignoring the yamas."
Yogic scholar Swami Brahmananda Saraswati revealed the inner science of yama and niyama. They
are the means, he said, to control the vitarkas, the cruel mental waves or thoughts, that when acted
upon result in injury to others, untruthfulness, hoarding, discontent, indolence or selfishness. He
For each vitarka you have, you can create its opposite through yama and niyama, and
make your life successful.
Patanjali does not suggest that we live according to the yamas and niyamas in order to be good
people or to obey God. His moral code describes the qualities we need in order to reach the goal of
yoga: to still the fluctuations of the mind and rest in our true nature. A mind filled with love, truth
and generosity is a mind that can become quiet: no fights, no guilt and no neediness.
To live the yamas and niyamas also demands a radical deepening of commitment. The focus moves
from our actions to our thoughts, which, after all, generate actions.

The Ten Yamas and Ten Niyamas

The following section, with accompanying illustrations, elucidate the yamas and niyamas. Presented
first are the ten yamas, the do nots, which harness the instinctive nature, with its governing
impulses of fear, anger, jealousy, selfi shness, greed and lust. Second are illustrated the ten niyamas,
the dos, the religious observances that cultivate and bring forth the refined soul qualities, lifting
awareness into the consciousness of the higher chakras of love, compassion, selflessness,
intelligence and bliss.

YAMAS The 10 Vedic


NIYAMAS The 10 Vedic


Yamas - Guidelines for how we interact with

the outer world. Social disciplines to guide us
in our relationships with others. The ten yamas
are: ahimsa, aatya, aasteya, brahmacharya,
kshama, dhriti, daya, arjava, mitahara and

Niyamas, how we interact with ourselves, our

internal world. The practice of Niyama
harnesses the energy generated from our
practice and cultivation of the yamas. Niyama is
about self-regulation helping us maintain a
positive environment in which to grow. The
five niyamas are: hri, santosha, dana, astikya,
ishvarapujana, siddhanta shravana, mati, vrata,
japa and tapas.

YAMA 1 Ahimsa, Non-harming

Practice non-harming, not harming oneself and

others by thought, word or deed, even in your
NIYAMA 1 Hri, Remorse
dreams. Live a kindly life, revering all beings
as expressions of the One Divine energy. Let go Allow yourself the expression of remorse,
of fear and insecurity, the sources of abuse.
being modest and showing shame for misdeeds.
Knowing that harm caused to others unfailingly Recognize your errors, confess and make
returns to oneself, live peacefully with God's amends. Sincerely apologize to those hurt by
creation. Never be a source of dread, pain or
your words or deeds. Resolve all contention
injury. Not harming the environment. Not
before sleep. Seek out and correct your faults
speaking that which, even though truthful,
and bad habits. Welcome correction as a means
would injure others.
to bettering yourself. Do not boast. Shun pride
and pretension.
This also includes the principles of ethically
correct nutrition and, which is no less
important, getting rid of coarse emotions, whichNIYAMA 2 Santosha, Contentment
are the result of ill thoughts and often lead to
Nurture contentment, seeking joy and serenity
rude words and actions.
in life. Be happy, smile and uplift others. Live
One can make ethical mistakes, including
in constant gratitude for your health, your
crimes, as a result of either ignorance, lack of friends and your belongings, Don't complain
understanding of the universal order and of
about what you don't possess. Identify with the
ones own place and role in it, or out of
eternal You, rather than mind, body or
indulging in the emotions of spite,
emotions. Keep the mountaintop view that life
condemnation, resentment, anxiety, fear, etc., is an opportunity for spiritual progress. Live in
which are vicious manifestations of the lower the eternal now.

YAMA 2 Satya, Truthfulness

NIYAMA 3 Dana, Giving

Be generous to a fault, giving liberally without

Adhere to truthfulness, not intending to deceive thought of reward. Tithe, offering one-tenth of
others in our thoughts, as well as our words and your gross income (dashamamsha), as God's
actions. Refraining from lying and betraying money, to temples, ashrams and spiritual
promises. Speak only that which is true, kind, organizations. Approach the temple with
helpful and necessary. Knowing that deception offerings. Visit guru with gifts in hand. Donate
creates distance, don't keep secrets from family religious literature. Feed and give to those in
or loved ones. Be fair, accurate and frank in
need. Bestow your time and talents without
discussions, a stranger to deceit. Admit your
seeking praise. Treat guests as God.
failings. Do not engage in slander, gossip or
backbiting. Do not bear false witness against
NIYAMA 4 Astikya, Faith
Cultivate an unshakable faith. Believe firmly in
God, Gods, guru and your path to
YAMA 3 Asteya, Nonstealing
enlightenment. Trust in the words of the
Uphold the virtue of non stealing, neither
masters, the scriptures and traditions. Practice
thieving, coveting nor failing to repay debt.
devotion and sadhana to inspire experiences
Control your desires and live within your
that build advanced faith. Be loyal to your
means. Do not use borrowed resources for
lineage, one with your satguru. Shun those who
unintended purposes or keep them past due. Do try to break your faith by argument and
not gamble or defraud others. Do not renege on accusation. Avoid doubt and despair.

1. Yamas and Niyamas, Courtesy to Himalayan Academy
Glossary of Terms