Yamas and Niyamas are two ethical guidelines or principles of Yoga, which form the foundation of a Yogic lifestyle. Ashtanga Yoga is the eightfold path of Yoga, as outlined by the ancient sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.
The Yamas and Niyamas are often referred to as the “dos and don’ts” of Yoga, and provide guidance on how to conduct oneself towards others and oneself.
The five Yamas are:
- Satya (truthfulness)
- Asteya (non-stealing)
- Brahmacharya (celibacy or moderation)
- Aparigraha (non-possessiveness)
The five Niyamas are:
- Saucha (cleanliness and purity)
- Santosha (contentment)
- Tapas (discipline and austerity)
- Svadhyaya (self-study)
- Ishvara pranidhana (surrender to a higher power)
Ashtanga Yoga, as described by Patanjali, consists of eight limbs or aspects that lead to the attainment of a state of samadhi, or complete absorption in the present moment. The eight limbs are:
- Yama (ethical principles)
- Niyama (personal observances)
- Asana (physical postures)
- Pranayama (breathing exercises)
- Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses)
- Dharana (concentration)
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (state of enlightenment)
Asana, or the physical postures, is just one of the eight limbs of Yoga, and is often used as a tool to prepare the body and mind for the deeper practices of meditation and self-realization.