Yama and Niyama are the first two limbs of Patanjali’s eight-limbed path of yoga, also known as Ashtanga Yoga. They are considered the foundation of a spiritual practice and are meant to guide practitioners in living a virtuous and ethical life.
Yama refers to the ethical guidelines for interacting with others and include:
- Ahimsa: non-violence and non-harm towards all living beings
- Satya: truthfulness and honesty
- Asteya: non-stealing
- Brahmacharya: celibacy or sexual restraint for spiritual growth
- Aparigraha: non-possessiveness and non-greed
Niyama, on the other hand, refers to the ethical guidelines for self-discipline and include:
- Saucha: cleanliness of body and mind
- Santosha: contentment and acceptance of things as they are
- Tapas: self-discipline and self-control through spiritual practices
- Svadhyaya: self-study and self-reflection
- Ishvara pranidhana: surrender to a higher power or God.
The observance of Yama and Niyama is said to lead to a more harmonious and balanced life, and to prepare the mind and body for deeper spiritual practices such as meditation and self-realization. It is important to note that these guidelines are not meant to be followed rigidly, but rather used as a framework for personal growth and self-discovery.