A Master Guide to Practicing the Yamas & Niyamas

Surprise, another post on the yamas and niyamas! I know I said last week that we were wrapping up the Yama and NIyama series, but I decided to include a bonus post. In completing the individual posts, one for each tenant, I thought it might be really useful to have one final post that provided an overview of all ten, creating a master list that you can come back to as you practice these tenants in your daily life.

So, what I've done below is provide a list of all ten tenants with short descriptions and what practicing each tenant will bring into your life. Each one is also linked to its corresponding full post; this way if you'd like to be reminded what a certain tenant is all about you can easily get to that post to refresh your memory. I hope this can be used as a guide for the whole series and your continued practice in living out the yogic philosophy. 

The descriptions are part of my own summary coupled with the summary provided in the book used for the series, The Yamas & Niyamas by Deborah Adele. At the bottom, I've finished us off with a final takeaways from the book about why taking the yamas and niyamas off the mat and into our daily lives is so crucial.

Again, I hope you've found this series to be helpful in your own journey through this life. Please feel free to use these posts as a guide you can come back to time and time again. Finally, do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or thoughts about the series or the practice of the yamas and niyamas. I'm always happy to connect and chat with all of you. You can either comment below or reach out through email or social media; all the links are at the bottom of the page.

As you take these ten tenants and work to incorporate them into your daily life, remember this point..

Following yoga’s jewels takes curiosity and a spirit of adventure. We get to create experiments and track which experiments get the intended results and which don’t. From this viewpoint, all of our participation in life is a success because everything we have done gives us valuable information.
— Deborah Adele

Yamas - The Restraints

Ahimsa - Non-violence
Turns us from harming self and others to kindness and compassion for self and others. Ahimsa asks us to step lightly, do no harm, and to honor the relationship we have with the earth, with each other, and with ourselves.
Non-violence brings an aura of peace that protects self and other.

Satya - Truthfulness
Turns us from lies and half-truths to expressing our uniqueness and authenticity. Satya is in a beautiful relationship with Ahimsa where our truth should be supported and grounded in non-violence.
Truthfulness brings spoken words to always come true.

Asteya - Non-stealing
Turns us from theft to cultivating new skills and abilities. When we steal from others, from the earth, or from the future, we are clinging to what is not inherently ours and ultimately leads to stealing from ourselves.
Non-stealing brings abundance.

Brahmacharya - Non-excess
Turns us from greed to appreciation and pleasure without excess. Brahmacharya asks us to turn on to the wonders of life and walk through life holding each being and every experience as sacred.
Non-excess brings great vitality.

Aparigraha - Non-possessiveness
Turns us from attachment to intimacy without possession. Aparigraha asks us to fully enjoy the pleasures of this moment without forming attachments or clinging to that which we love. What we attempt to possess will come to possess us.
Non-possessiveness brings knowledge of experience.

Niyamas - The Observances

Saucha - Purity
Invites us to cleanse our bodies, our speech, and our thoughts. By purifying ourselves from the inside, we can become a safe space for ourselves as well as others, create space to fully experience life, and come into our true selves.
Purity brings clarity.

Santosha - Contentment
Invites us to fall in love with our own life. Santosha asks us to remain centered in our present reality and find gratitude in what we currently have.
Contentment brings joy.

Tapas - Self-discipline
Invites us to consciously choose discipline and growth. Daily practices and staying with the unpleasantness of life allows us to burn away our old selves to be transformed into a stronger, more resilient self.
Self-discipline brings refinement.

Svadhyaya - Self-study
Invites us to know the Self. Svadhyaya asks us to turn our focus inward to better understand ourselves through peeling away our layers and finding our true divine self.
Self-study brings freedom.

Ishvara Pranidhana - Surrender
Invites us to pay attention to what life is asking of us. Ishvara Pranidhana asks us to accept the reality we've been handed while also being active participants, partnering with life. We learn to let go of control and grow into being more skillful at living this life.
Surrender brings harmony.

It is relatively easy to be kind, compassionate, open, and expansive sitting on the safety of my yoga mat. I can be deeply in love here. I can offer my practice as a prayer. But the question remains, will I choose love once I step off this mat? The true test of love comes in the moment to moment ordinariness of life. Will I remain open as I walk back to my car in the dark? Will I find compassion in the face of judgment, both yours and mine? Righteousness, both yours and mine? Will I keep the love connection with my breath when I am running behind? Will I choose faith when my loved ones are in need? Will I be kind with house chores? Interruptions? These are the moments that our choices of fear or of love are most challenging and crucial.
— Ann Maxwell

Everything we need is already inside us. Choosing to follow the yamas and niyamas is a practice in letting go of limiting beliefs and habits that hold us captive to a false belief of helplessness and despair. We always have the power to grow and learn. All we need is ourselves, patience, curiosity, compassion, and discipline.

With love and light,