The 5 Yamas on the Eightfold Path of Yoga

The 5 Yamas and 5 Niyamas of Patanjali's "Yoga Sutra" represent the first and second stage of the eight-part path and serve to treat oneself and the world with care - because according to yoga philosophy, our thoughts and actions do not only affect us , but also on our environment and the entire universe.

Thus the yamas and niyamas are described as “rules” and codes of conduct that every yogi should follow. Each of these aspects is both mentally internalized and lived externally. This results in concrete consequences for the thinking, feeling and acting of every human being.

The 5 Yama Principles of Yoga

The five Yamas are:

  1. ahimsa
  2. satya
  3. Asteya
  4. Bahmachary
  5. Aparigraha

What they mean exactly and which "rules" are hidden behind the individual Yamas, we will now explain to you in more detail.

1. Ahimsa

Ahimsa means something like non-violence, but goes beyond purely physical non-violence and includes much more non-harm in the broadest sense. Psychological and verbal violence can also cause damage and should be avoided. When dealing with other living beings, compassion and benevolence is striven for in every area of ​​life, no matter how small. Non-violent nutrition and clothing without causing animal suffering are just as much a part of Ahimsa as non-violent and understanding communication.

The yogic idea that everything is connected helps here - if you harm your environment, you will inevitably harm yourself as well.

2. Satya

The 2nd Yama Satya means above all sincerity and loyalty towards oneself and others. Also the conscious silence, so as not to hurt anyone with words, is part of this Yama. In the second Yama it is clearly seen that the 5 Yamas all interact with each other and none exist independently of the other 4 Yamas. They are always intertwined and belong together like the steps on a ladder, with each step having equal importance.

Nevertheless, the individual principles build on one another, just like steps. Satya also means the ability to say "no" and not out of politeness or weakness to say "yes" to something you neither want nor feel right. Only what is felt inside may be carried to the outside. In this way, the imaginary separation between inside and outside is gradually eliminated. As inside - so outside, you could say. This includes seeing things, including yourself, as they really are and not as you would like them to be.

3. Asteya

Asteya involves more than controlling desires, material desires and attachments. Asteya's main concern is that the property of others is neither coveted nor misappropriated. Any "too much" on one side leads to "too little" on the other side. So there is poverty only because there is wealth. As long as someone desires and has more than they need to live, there will also be someone who has too little to live on.

Desire also goes hand in hand with distrust and fear of loss. Even envy of someone else's riches is already considered in yogic philosophy to be a form of spiritual stealing that leads us to desire what is not ours. The Yama Asteya also calls for inner contentment and modesty, so that true wealth can be discovered within.

4. Brahmachary

The Yama Brahmachary is all too often thought of giving up sexual desire. Chastity and total abstinence from sex life are not what brahmachary originally meant.

Actually, Brahmachary is about the right balance in everything. Whether sexuality, food or other things that often go hand in hand with physical and sensual needs: the solution is not abstinence, but sticking to the golden mean, which is achieved with a certain restraint or abstinence. Moderation in everything one does is probably the real meaning of Brahmachary and serves mental, spiritual and physical health.

5. Aparigraha

The 5th principle of the 5 Yamas is closely related to the 3rd principle, Asteya. Here again it becomes clear that the Yamas are part of a whole and are inseparable from one another. The Yama Aparigraha recommends not accumulating large possessions and being content with bare necessities.

Unnecessary possessions arouse envy and cost valuable life time and energy. But it is also a call to release attachment to certain feelings and situations.

Because it's not always just material things that we desire, but also sensual experiences that can quickly degenerate into passions. So this Yama also has some things in common with the 4th Yama Brahmachary.

Along with the five yamas, the five niyamas are also considered principles or disciplines on the path to enlightenment.

While the Yamas are mainly recommendations for behavior in the outside world, i.e. social interaction, the 5 Niyamas are more self-related and are aimed at the thoughts and feelings of the practitioner.

The 5 Niyamas in Yoga

1. Sauca: Purity

Sauca means physical, but also mental and spiritual purity, which can be achieved with fasting (also of the spirit), proper nutrition and breathing exercises.

2. Samtosa: modesty and contentment:

Concentrating on what is most necessary and important is trained and thus leads to inner satisfaction and gratitude.

3. Tapas: Burn:

Body, mind and soul are purified, cleansed and detoxified through exercises and abstinence. Unnecessary ballast is literally burned off and the senses are sharpened as a result. This should also make it easier to endure adverse circumstances.

4. Svadhyaya: Self-Reflection

In addition to studying classic yoga texts, self-analysis plays a particularly important role. Because questioning one's own views, beliefs and actions helps to unmask and resolve inner entanglements. In this way, the yogin approaches his own center and self.

5. Ishvarapranidhana: Devotion to the Divine

This is about letting go of fears and trusting in the guidance of divine power.

As already mentioned, yamas and niyamas are considered a code of conduct in yoga philosophy. They are the basic requirement for the yogi to reach the enlightened state of “Samadhi” sooner or later.

Regardless of the yogic path and the path to enlightenment, the five yamas also simply offer a good basis for peaceful and harmonious coexistence - for this alone it is worth taking the yamas and niyamas with you into your everyday life and trying out the rules at least once.

Have fun!

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