The meaning of Yama and Niyama


The meaning of Yama and Niyama:

Yama is the rules of morality which transcend creed, country, age and race.

Niyama is the rules of conduct that apply to the individual. It is self- discipline. 


Each has five principles:


(i) Non-violence (ahimsa) – Respect for others. Anger, cruelty or harassment of others contradicts the principles of ahimsa.

(ii) Truthfulness (satya) – Not hurting others by what we say. Lying, cheating, dishonesty and deception break the principles of satya.

(iii) Non-stealing and non-covertness (asteya) – not to be greedy, steal from others or to want other’s possessions.

(iv) Moderation in sex (brahmacarya) – Chastity. This does not mean total abstinence but a disciplined sexual life promoting contentment and moral strength from within.

(v) Non-acquisitiveness (aparigraha) – Freedom from desire; out of personal greed. It refers also to freedom from emotional and intellectual possessiveness.



(i) Cleanliness (sauca) – refers to cleanliness in body, thought and word.

Personal hygiene: bathing to purify the body externally, asana and pranayama cleanse it internally.

Cleansing the mind of disturbing emotions like hatred, greed, anger, lust, pride and delusion Cleansing the intellect so that one can see the good in others and not just their faults.

Pure food to promote health, strength, energy and life. Avoid foods, which are sour, bitter, salty, pungent, burning, stale, tasteless, heavy.

(ii) Contentment (santosa) – Contentment and tranquility are a state of mind. A mind that is not content cannot concentrate. Contentment helps to curb desire, anger, ambition and greed.

(iii) Austerity (tapas) – science of character building. The burning effort to achieve a definite goal and to control the senses. To not harbor ill thoughts or feelings leads to mastery of the senses.

(iv) Self study (svadhyana) – study of the scriptures and study of the self.

(v) Devotion (isvarapranidhana) – perform all actions as an offering to a higher consciousness or god. Dedication to the lord.

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