Yoga is more than just a physical discipline. It is a way of life—a rich philosophical path. And the yamas (restraints) and niyamas (observances) are ten good common-sense guidelines for leading a healthier, happier life for bringing spiritual awareness into a social context. They are for you to think about and ponder over with a rational mind, because yoga is not about mindlessly accepting externally imposed rules—it is about finding the truth for yourself—and ‘connecting’ with it.
There are many interpretations of and opinions about the yamas and niyamas. While the ancient Indian text, the Bhagavata Purana assigns 12 yogic restraints the Parashar Smriti, another text, puts forward ten. But the yamas as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra are only five, which are also known as the great universal vows or the sarvabhauma maha vratas, because they are not limited by either class, creed, time or circumstances. They are the guidelines for how we interact with the outer world, the social disciplines to guide us in our relationships with others. These five are:
• Ahimsa (non-violence),
• Satya (truthfulness),
• Asteya (non-stealing),
• Brahmacharya (celibacy) and
• Aparigraha (non-covetousness)
According to the Yajnavalkya Samhita, ahimsa or non-violence is the awareness and practice of non-violence in thought, speech and action. It advocates the practices of compassion, love, understanding, patience, self-love, and worthiness.
Patanjali describes truthfulness as: “To be in harmony with mind, word and action, to conduct speech and mind according to truth, to express through speech and to retain it in the intellect what has been seen, understood or heard.” A perfectly truthful person is he who expresses in his speech exactly what he thinks in his mind and in the end acts according to it.
Non-stealing or asteya is the third constituent of the yamas of Ashtanga Yoga. It upholds forgoing the unauthorized possession of thought, speech and action. Asteya stands against covetousness and envy. It advocates the cultivation of a sense of completeness and self-sufficiency in order to progress beyond base cravings.
The Vedas, Smritis and Puranas all glorify the fourth constituent of celibacy. It is believed to be a behavior, which brings man nearer to the Divine. This yama believes in avoiding all sensual pleasures, whether mental, vocal or physical.
The literal meaning of apigraha, the fifth yama, is the non-accumulation of worldly objects, caused by covetousness and attachment. The commentator Vyasa says that this last state of yama is attained when one remains totally detached from sensual pleasures of all kinds and so effectively refrains from committing himsa or violence of any sort.
The niyamas are the second constituents of Ashtanga Yoga. How we interact with ourselves, our internal world. The niyamas are about self-regulation—helping us maintain a positive environment in which to grow. Their practice harnesses the energy generated from the cultivation of the earlier yamas. According to sage Yajnavalkya, there are ten niyamas and the Bhagavad Gita lists 11 constituents. But Patanjali names only five:
• Shaucha or purity,
• Santosha or contentment,
• Tapa or austerity,
• Swadhyaya or self-education and
• Ishwar-Pranidhan or meditation on the Divine
Shaucha implies both external as well as internal purity. In the words of sage Manu, water purifies the body; truthfulness the mind; true knowledge the intellect and the soul is purified by knowledge and austerity. It advocates the practices of intellectual purity, purity of speech and of the body.
The second niyama is that of contentment, which is described as not desiring more than what one has earned by his honest labor. This state of mind is about maintaining equanimity through all that life offers. Santosha involves the practice of gratitude and joyfulness—maintaining calm at all costs. This state of mind does not depend on any external causes.
Austerity, the third niyama, is described in Yoga philosophy as power to stand thirst and hunger, cold and heat, discomforts of place and postures, silent meditation and ritual fasts. It also maintains that the perfect man is he who practices both mental as well as physical austerity.
According to the commentator Vyas, self-education or swadhyaya consists of scriptural studies. The scripture being, the Vedas and Upanishads together with the recitation of the Gayatri Mantra and the Om mantra.
Commentators describe Ishwar-Pranidhan, the last of the niyamas, as the dedication of all our actions, performed either by intellect, speech or body, to the Divine. The results of all such actions are by definition, therefore, dependent upon Divine decision. The mortal mind can simply aspire to realize the Divine through dedication, purification, tranquilization and concentration of the mind. This Divine contemplation spills over to all aspects of the yogi’s life.
The Benefits of Practicing Yamas and Niyamas:
The yamas and niyamas help in managing our energy in an integrative manner, complementing our outer life to our inner development. They help us view ourselves with compassion and awareness. They help in respecting the values of this life, in balancing our inner growth with outer restraint. In short they help us to lead a conscious life.
Yamas and niyamas are not about right and wrong. They are about being honest with the true Self. Living according to these principles are about living our lives in a better way, about moving towards an understanding, about making it possible to ‘connect’ with the Divine.
Thanks to www.LifePositive.com .