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Yama Niyama Foundation of Yoga: The Concept


The thinking of the common man has to progress from being raw and instinct driven. It is fine for an animal to fight for its meal. The story is fixed and continues for its entire life span. And the animal does it relentlessly. This is not for man.


Man takes up anything for results, enjoyment and recognition. Whether it is education, job, marriage, or family life…It has to be of the highest order. So, each strives to achieve the best. So, the story of the common man unlike the animal never finds a logical end because the definition of best keeps changing. This is not for a Yoga student.
The highest possibility is clearly defined and that is Moksha the ultimate liberation. The Yama & Niyama lay a solid foundation of self discipline for this. These lay discipline in social and personal life and so are of primary importance in the practice of self growth. 


The Yama & Niyama bring in clarity to the achievement drive of the common man. When these qualities are nurtured the consciousness moves beyond the animal drive of food, clothing, shelter and sex; is able to see through the situation and discriminate. Just as the animal body needs food to sustain, the human mind needs Yama & Niyama to function in balance and uplift itself.


Yama the 1st step in Ashtanga lays the foundation. It is yoga of social conduct. There are 5 Yama and 5 Niyama. 

 

Ahimsa the highest virtue. Ahimsa paramo dharmah.  Practice of Ahimsa is not just refraining from physical violence or abuse; that could be a way of civilized social conduct. Beyond this, Ahimsa addresses health of the mind. Criticism, sarcasm, cynicism, backbiting, offensive language, comparison could be verbal forms of not practicing Ahimsa. Further even the body gestures of denial and disregard have to be monitored for all these are expressions of unhealthy mind. It can only lead to unhappy relations and disturbance. It needs no effort to harm, its instant and handy.

 

Satya the second Yama is practice of non-falsehood. No one wants to speak false outright. Rather one chooses to speak half or partial, may be deceitful, inarticulate or uses words that can be interpreted differently. It may not be false as a common understanding…but it is NOT TRUTH.  Why? What are you trying to hide? What is it mirroring you?

 

Asteya third Yama means to not steal.  It is not to take a thing, or use a facility or service that is not offered by its owner.  Asteya also means receiving that to which one is not entitled. At mental level it is having no desire to possess others belongings as well as to resist taking anything of others.

 

Brahmacharya has a wider spectrum than only the celibacy. Brahmacharya would mean adopting a conduct to life situations in supreme/ balanced state of consciousness. It would mean to not give into one’s weaknesses and indulgences related to excess of food/ sleep/ exercise; it could be cravings about relations, objects and addictions. Watch out! Even self righteousness would mean to violate Brahmacharya.

 

Aparigraha the fifth Yama means non-hoarding or non-covetousness. Asteya is regarding to what belongs to others and this is to do with one’s own. Any possession relationships/ objects/ ideas/ situations/… is for a purpose of experience. If one feels like continuing the experience with one’s possessions one is most likely to hold on to these ‘I, me, mine’ things. Once established these not only can increase sense of possessiveness but can also become ideologies and bring in stagnation or limitedness.

The Yama are the guidelines for social behavior, and very relevant today where exposure to anyone anytime is asking for sensitive responding, and issues related to social behavior require mature handling.

 

Niyama the 2nd step in Ashtanga Yoga is related to personal conduct. Niyama are the observances – the ‘To Do’ list of everyday.

 

Shauca means to observe cleanliness and purity of thought word and deed. Here the attempt is to look beyond attending daily personal hygiene and attire. If the mind is not willing to be structured, it will give the reasons for shirking it. Become aware of the excuses of the mind. These are generally similar however small or big activity you want to do or not to do. Spending 2/3 minutes early morning with the elements (open lawns, grounds, seashore, sunrise, space, fresh air, and holy place) gives a positive stroke at the beginning of the day.

 

Samtosha means to feel happy and contended. Santosha is being happy unconditionally. It is experiencing steady state of joy that does not fluctuate with external limitations or abundance. It is internal feeling of completeness.

 

Tapa is commitment, discipline and consistent actions! It leaves no room for lethargy and laid back attitude. Make a beginning by taking up small commitment in household activity or personal goal.  It’s a way to catch the mastermind and make it to follow the commands. If it’s not following it indicates the rigidity/ past programming of the mind that perhaps feels limiting or binding.And if the mind is readily following it is positive energy; the milestone on the way to self growth.

 

Swadhyaya is study of one self and the pure self. Parent/in laws/ other elderly persons are the way we could connect to our inner self. How I relate with them, how they feel about me I see its reflection in this relationship.  Both are sailing in the same boat. The distance between the two is only of life experiences. Connect with them and step forward in unfolding yourself to you. To explore the pure Self, study the scriptures, ponder and meditate.

 

Ishwarapranidhana is to surrender. The actions, which we perform, bear the fruits as per the larger design of the nature. We are here for playing the role we are subjected to, and while doing so, progress towards the fulfillment. On this journey holding on to our ego, attachments, possessions, cannot take us beyond pain, misery and suffering. Ishwarapranidhana helps us to realize our limitedness. By surrendering we are able to take a step back and accept the higher direction.