The foundation of yoga is Yama and Niyama. These are the moral and ethical guidelines of yoga; the first and second stages. The ethical and disciplinary precepts that serve as the Sadhaka's guidelines for right conduct in life. Applying these principles helps to purify the Sadhaka's actions and thoughts by removing Rajas and Tamas, so Sattva may prevail.
The Yamas and Niyamas
Click on any Yama or Niyama to read more.
Ahimsa (non-violence)Satya (truthfulness)Asteya (non-stealing)Aparigraha (non-hoarding)Brahmacharya (continence/celibacy)
Saucha (cleanliness/purity)Santosha (contentment)Tapas (austerity)Svadhyaya (study of the scriptures)Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender to the Lord)
By cultivation of these ten canons (which are universal and non-sectarian in nature), inner and outer purity are increased, and compassion and universal love are developed. Passions and emotions are lessened and success is achieved in the avoidance of disturbing anyone or anything. We begin to see that we are all the same, feeling as one with all God’s creatures.
Without yama and niyama, the mind will never settle, we cannot succeed in meditation, and we experience no spiritual bliss.
Each time we act, we strengthen the desire or thought behind it. Thoughts gain momentum when they are brought into physical manifestation through fresh actions. The deepest part of Yoga practice is inward and when the functions of the mind are strengthened through fresh immoral actions, this inward quest becomes quite difficult. Lack of self control causes cravings and desires to increase, the breath then becomes out of rhythm and this attracts disease. Action gives rise to desire for more, and the cycle is never ending.
The mind is very deceptive and does what it wants to do. In the earliest stages, the mind will not appreciate the disciplines and restraints put upon it. It is not an easy thing to control the mind. The resolves and vows taken by the Yogi through yama and niyama transform the mind by forming new habits and patterns directly targeted against the lower tendencies. The Yogi counters the lower actions with higher actions. This is yama.
Impurities bring discomfort, pain and suffering. As the physical, mental and spiritual impurities are removed by proper living and observance of yama and niyama, the nerves are purified and the prana may then travel unobstructed and safely, eradicating the misperceptions of individual existence. Eventually, the Yogi experiences direct perception of God. My saintly Guru always taught that the greatest of all impurities is ignorance of your own true nature. Offer every action to the Lord, to the Supreme Self, with no desire for the fruits. All progress in yoga practice depends on exemplary personal character, and one’s relation to people, animals and the world around them.
Everything is perfect, and is the result of our previous actions. The Supreme Self is the same within all beings. Actions without right knowledge and without the practice of Yama, do not allow the Supreme Self to manifest within us. This is due to the psychic channels being blocked, which causes much pain and suffering and results in fear of death, accidents and the loss of loved ones. Realize that the lack of Self-knowledge is the greatest of all the impurities.
~Sri Dharma Mittra
Ahimsa (non-violence in thought, word and action) is the foundation of all the other moral precepts because harming is the source of all suffering. The practice of universal love is the highest practice for success in Yoga, and the ideal to which the Sadhaka ceaselessly strives.
Yoga is rooted in virtue and there is no higher virtue than the abandoning of cruelty and harming. The Yogi must respect all life. The greatest need in this ephemeral material realm is the message of love. Kindle the light of love in your own heart first. Love all. Include all creatures in the warm embrace of your love. You will soon be rooted in true ahimsa.
Have firm and unshakable faith in the existence of the Absolute One who supports all three periods of time and is without beginning, middle or end. Desire is the true enemy of peace, for desires can never be fully satisfied. Strive for true, abiding happiness that can only be obtained by realizing God alone through constant practice, self control, purity, concentration, meditation, and above all—observance and practice of yama and niyama.
Many people these days equate yoga with postures and breathing. This is not sufficient for spiritual progress. The Sadhaka must be loving and kind, forgiving and repentant. Ever engaged in self reflection and seeing all of creation as the Omnipresent, Imperishable Lord. Foundation in yama and niyama is what is needed for this. Observe yama and niyama and shine as a Yogi in this very birth!