Modern Meaning of the 5 Yamas and Niyamas - List of Definitions.
The 5 Yamas and Niyamas are lists, each consisting of 5 virtues and practices. They are the first two guidelines in “Patanjali's Eightfold Path” from the book “Yoga Sutras”.
The Yoga Sutras is a book, commonly referred to as the yogi’s bible, that is filled with guidelines on virtuous habits, healthy practices and ethical observations. Which aim to guide an individual to achieve holistic contentment and a life free from suffering and illusions.
Patanjali, was the creator of the Yoga Sutras. He was an ancient sage, mythical yogi and historical enigma. Many hindu legends surround his life and accomplishments, but to this day, many historians remain puzzled over his existence. Some believe he was even the father of Ayurvedic practices while others questioned if he even truly existed.
Our next article explores Patanjali’s life, work and philosophy. Looking deeper into the Eightfold Path. You can read it here.
The 5 Yamas are guidelines for external characteristics. The way we interact with the world, the environment and our body. While the 5 Niyamas are guidelines for internal characteristics. The way we interact with our thoughts, mind and perceptions. Creating balance between yama and niyama is vital to create union between our minds and the world outside.
At Niyama, we love to support yogic philosophy and character growth. It is also our mission to leave the world better than when we found it. So in alignment with this, we decided to not only make versatile leggings, that give you confidence, versatile convenience and comfort. We decided to make them eco-friendly too! So that we could help to support the environment and grant you those inner “feel good” vibes everytime you wear Niyama.
The 5 Yamas - यम
The External Virtues of Character
“By firmly grasping the flower of a single virtue, a person can lift the entire garland of yama and niyama.”- Swami Kripalu
“Non-Violence, Non-Harming of Other Living Beings”
The principle of non-violence is an act of self control through consideration, empathy and compassion. It requires the ability to access a higher emotional intelligence that enable one to surpass animalistic instincts and reach for a more noble foundation of resolution to stressful situations.
The virtue of truthfulness allows one to be pure and authentic. To say what you mean and to do what you say is the cornerstone for character growth and healthy relationships. It is the foundation of qualities such as dependability, honesty, integrity and reliability.
The principle of not taking what isn’t yours, whether through an action, speech or thought accommodates the belief in our own abilities. The act of stealing is considered an expression of weak faith in one’s self, our ability to learn and create. Through surpassing cravings, and a lack of compassion for others, we are able to better focus on what we have and what we can achieve.
"Chastity, Marital Fidelity or Sexual Restraint"
The virtue of sexual self control and restraint changes on an individual's context. Within a relationship it means to uphold martial fidelity, when single, to maintain celibacy. It is the foreground for healthy relationships, healthy bodies and healthy minds. Free from the illusions of lust, temptation, fantasy and greed. Self control grants us the time to build substance in our relationships, to focus on our commitments, individual progression and self love.
The virtue of keeping desires limited to only what is necessary or important, varying based on individuals stage of life and context, allows one to be free of greed, over attachment and envy. Building the characteristic of temperance, purity of intentions and self control.
The 5 Niyamas -नियम
The Internal Virtues of Character.
"The human body is cleansed by water, the mind is cleansed by truth, the soul by self-study and meditation, while understanding is cleansed by knowledge". - Vishnu Smriti
"Purity, Clearness of Mind, Speech, and Body"
This virtue is both an internal and external practice. It is the outer purity of body and inner purity of mind. The practice of purity of body is essential for well being, health and happiness. Through the practice of asanas and healthy food, water and air. We may achieve purity of body. A pure mind is free from hate, envy, greed, prejudice, fear and negative thoughts. This is achieved through daily mindfulness, meditation and self reflection.
"Contentment, Acceptance of Others and
of One's Circumstances, Optimism for Self"
The practice of inner contentment, satisfaction and acceptance of our reality. The attitude of gratefulness and acceptance for oneself, our environment and our circumstances. This is a spiritual state that is necessary for us to create optimism, and in turn, motivation to change the future. Despite whether we face pain or pleasure, success or failure, longevity or impermanence. Inner contentment allows us to surpass unnecessary suffering and attachments.
"Austerity, Self-Discipline, Persistent Meditation,
Often associated with spiritual rebirth. The practice of self discipline, persistent meditation and perseverance of one's virtues enables deep cleansing of the mind, the body and perceptions. Leading to purity of self and actions.
"Study of Self, Self-Reflection, Introspection of Self
Thought, Speeches, and Actions"
The practice of self study, self knowledge and self reflection is the pivotal point in the spiritual journey. This enables transcendance of character flaws and reactivity. To obtain a more self aware, and progressive mindset that allows us to understand and overcome our past.
"Contemplation of God,
Attunement to the Supreme Consciousness"
The practice of surrender to life and commitment to a higher calling. No longer affected by hardships, the past, or psychological dispositions. It is the practice of simply being alive and surrendering to it. Letting go of attachments, expectations and suffering to achieve a state of oneness with the world.
Monks, Yogis and Hindus have followed these guidelines for happiness for thousands of years. Practicing the science and art of yogic philosophy in there daily routine and practice. The same wisdom intertwines throughout Christianity, modern psychology, ancient philosophy and many other belief systems.
“Know thyself.” - Socrates
“Study thyself, discover the divine.” - Patanjali’s Yogasutra.
“Your perception will become clear only when you can look into your soul.” - Carl Jung
“Nearly all wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists in two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves” - Christian Post
If we look at the bigger picture of spirituality, we can realise we are all simply human beings climbing a mountain in hopes to reach the highest viewpoint of the world and self. No matter how or what path we take. Each individual journey is either a step closer to the top, or a step closer to discovering a new way up the mountain. The only difference is what the mountain is symbolic of, how we choose to climb it and what we expect to find at the top. That is the true essence of what makes every spiritual journey and individual completely unique.