Fitness Magazine

Yamas and Niyamas That Are New To Us

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Victor Dubin, ERYT 500

Yamas and Niyamas That Are New To Us

Photo by Sarit Z Rogers of Sarit Photography

Just as you can practice Supta Padangustasana (Reclined Leg Stretch) to stretch your hamstrings or Navasana (Boat pose) to strengthen your core, you can also practice a yama or niyama to stretch your capacity for understanding, strengthen your ability to let go, deepen your gratitude, expand your awareness, and more. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali outlined five yamas and five niyamas, all of which have been explored in previous posts on the Yoga for Healthy aging blog (see The First Branch of Yoga: Yamas and The Second Branch of Yoga: Niyamas as well as the many posts on the individual yamas and niyamas). The yamas enumerated by Patanjali are nonviolence (ahmisa), honesty (satya), non-coveting (asteya), mindful use of life force energy (brahmacharya), and greedlessness (aparigraha). The niyamas are cleanliness (saucha), contentment (santosha), dedication(tapas), self-study (svadhyaya), and surrender (Ishvara Pranidhana).There are, however, numerous other yamas and niyamas that are part of the long history of yoga, which are not included in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. For many years, before I learned of these additional yamas and niyamas, I felt constrained by the limitations of the ten taken from the Yoga Sutras. I’ve never much been into dogma and the ten yamas and niyamas felt a little too neat and tidy for my taste. I have always thought that there are ways of being that facilitate unity that don’t necessarily fall easily within these ten—things like compassion, integrity, patience, and commitment. While I have heard and appreciated arguments that attempt to encapsulate these and other positive attributes and practices into Patanjali’s ten, learning about other texts that include different yamas and niyamas, such as the Tri Shikhi Brahmana Upanishad, has been empowering and uplifting for my understanding and practice.This will be the first in a series of posts that address these additional practices of yama and niyama, which can be included in a yoga practice geared toward healthy aging.Before diving in to the individual concepts themselves, I’d like to share my perspective on the yamas and niyamas generally, whether those enumerated by Patanjali or the others that I will be sharing here. Often the yamas and niyamas are presented as a set of rules to follow. While this has proven effective for some, for many of us this creates a kind of binary wherein we judge ourselves and others on whether we are or are not adhering to the rules. With a little bit of digging below the surface one realizes that, for example, there is not either violence or non-violence, but rather a spectrum of engagement in the world that falls somewhere along that spectrum. The practice therefore is not to simply exclude the violence at the far end of the spectrum, but to move all of our actions towards the non-violent end, even if some of those actions don’t reach all the way to ultimate peace.Additionally, I find it useful to think of yamas and niyamas not as nouns or things but instead as verbs or actions to be practiced. While not a yama or niyama per se, for many of us the concept of love is an example of an idea often posited as a feeling or a state of being but that is also an action. It is the way that you care for, support, uplift, and empower. Love, like the yamas and niyamas, can be practiced. The more you engage in the actions of love, the better you become at loving. And so it is with the yamas and niyamas. They are not merely states to achieve, but actions to be lived. Below is a list of the yamas and niyamas that I will explore here over the next weeks and months. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just a start at exploring more yogic concepts that will likely support wellbeing. My hope is that you will find ways to practice these while you are doing postures, breathing, or meditation and throughout your experiences of being. Enjoy!An excellent resource for additional reading on many of these concepts (and many others not enumerated here) is Georg Feuerstein’s Encyclopedic Dictionary of Yoga. (An interview with Georg by Richard Rosen The Spiritual Intent of the Teachings about finding good teachers and the spiritual intent of yoga was published on this blog and his work has often been cited here as a reference.) His Encyclopedic Dictionary of Yoga is an essential reference book for students and teachers of yoga who want a clearer understanding of yogic ideas that are often cited but rarely discussed in detail. Feurstein’s book is not the only source for better understanding the yamas and niyamas, but it is a good one that is quite accessible.Additional Yamas and NiyamasDaya - CompassionArjava- IntegrityKshama - Patience/ToleranceDhriti - SteadfastnessDana - GenerosityUpashama - CalmJaya - MasteryHri - Self-respect/ModestyMati - ConvictionJapa - Recitation/MantraVrata - Devotion /CommitmentHoma - Sacrifice/OfferingShraddha - FaithAtithya - Hospitality/Welcoming
Mauna - Silence
Yamas and Niyamas That Are New To Us
Victor Dubin, ERYT 500 has been teaching yoga in Santa Cruz, California since 1996. He is a teacher at and co-owner of the wellness center NOURISH. Victor believes that "yoga is not about attempting to fit people into particular models of practice, but creating space for people to discover themselves."Victor is the director of and primary yoga instructor for the NOURISH Yoga Teacher Training Program. He develops and teaches classes in anatomy, physiology, in-depth posture exploration, meditation, philosophy, and history. He also teaches How to Teach Yoga and guides student teachers in the art and science of class development and instruction. Victor teaches for the ViraVinyasa Yoga Teacher Training in Tulsa, OK and other workshops.
Class Schedule at
Upcoming Workshops at mindbodyonline.comFacebook: victordubin
Instagram: @victordubin
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