Discovering yoga beyond the mat: Yama and Niyama

For inner peace, to destress, or clear the mind. These are just some of the common reasons shared about why people love yoga. Unsurprisingly, yoga has the transformative power to foster calmness while we’re on the mat. How can we bring this to the remaining 23 hours of our day beyond the mat?

The answer lies in Yamas and Niyamas. 

The Eight Limbs Of Yoga

While Asanas are the reason why most people begin their foray into yoga, it is often the spiritual and meditative elements that make people continue the practice. Yoga actually consists of various elements as part of the Eight Limbs of Yoga – Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. 

In this post, I will share more about the first 2 limbs, Yama and Niyama, which constitute the basic attitudes or moral codes about how we should live life. 

Yama

The Yamas focus on attitudes toward our environment, how we think and interact with the world around us.

  1. Ahimsa, aka non-violence, to be loving and compassionate. 
  2. Satya, aka truthfulness, to embody integrity and courage to speak the truth.  
  3. Asteya, aka non-stealing, to abstain from taking things that are not yours as well as not taking that which is not offered, including non-material things like time, thoughts, energy, emotions and ideas.
  4. Brahmacharya, aka moderation, to practise self-restraint of our desires.
  5. Aparigraha, aka non-hoarding, to stay away from greed and the need to possess things, both material and non-material.
Niyama

The Niyamas focus on attitudes toward ourselves, how we think and behave inwardly. 

  1. Saucha, aka purity, to cleanse our mind and body. 
  2. Santosa, aka contentment, to accept and enjoy reality as it is.
  3. Tapas, aka discipline, to put forth our best effort with willpower and sacrifice. 
  4. Svadhyaya, aka self-study, to embark on a process of discovery to develop a deeper understanding of the self through self-inquiry, meditation, mindfulness, etc. 
  5. Ishvara Pranidhana, aka surrender to a higher power, to achieve and sustain peace and equanimity in our lives.
How to apply Yama and Niyama in our daily life? 

The practise of Yama and Niyama will help you both on and off the mat. It teaches us the values that enable us to be kind and compassionate to oneself and others. So next time your yoga teacher asks you what you will take away and apply into your daily life, perhaps you can pick a Yama or Niyama and identify situations where you can apply the principles. 

Once we realise that there is room to grow within ourselves, that is the first step toward enlightenment.