Yoga defines yama and niyama as the positive and negative aspects of
behavior respectively. Traditional texts mention ten yamas and ten niyamas but
Patanjali's Yogasutra, which is considered the original treatise on yoga,
defines five yamas and five niyamas. It has been mentioned that in Manusmirti
that it is more important to follow yamas than niyamas. Here we give a brief
description on the yamas and niyamas to be followed: Ahimsa
(Non-violence): this is one of foremost yamas. It means the lack of intention to
hurt others. This intention need not be just physical but includes mental and
emotional cruelty. Here the attitude is more important than the actual act of
killing. You should not even have the intention of offending others. Satya (Truthfulness): this quality implies the honesty and sincerity in
thoughts, words and deeds. This is possible only when one has conquered greed
and ambition since these are the two major culprits which take you away from the
truth. Asteya (Non-theft): in Sanskrit, 'steya' denotes the enjoyment
or keeping with oneself the things that do not rightfully belong to them. This
is basically the act of stealing or theft. A person is inclined to steal only
when he has no love and has some selfish motive. A yogi or a student of yoga has
very few basic needs. He has learnt the art of loving himself as well as the
others. Hence he does not feel the need to exploit or steal from others.
Brahmacharya (Celibacy): sex has been defined as on of the vital
necessities of human existence. It ranks next only to food. Since ancient times,
very few people have been able to master their sexual urges. If not satisfied,
these urges lead a person to depravation and develop psychotic tendencies. Yoga
lays a great stress on the celibacy. It considers not only the act of sex itself
as sexual but even thinking, talking and looking at opposite sex as a part of
sex and hence has to be avoided. Patanjali has declared that brahmacharya
increases the mental strength also called veerya in an individual.
Aparigraha (Non-gathering): this yama means not going on collecting wealth and
objects just for enjoyment. Yoga teaches one to collect wealth and objects just
to meet his primary needs. This is important because greed causes distraction
and thus leads to increased strain on his mind and body.
mentioned points deal with vairagya or the negative aspects of one's behaviour.
Now we take a look at some of the niyamas or the positive aspects of the
behaviour as described by yoga:
Shoucha (Cleanliness): This includes
the cleanliness of the mind and the body. Yoga has described a clean mind as the
one free of any prejudices, false beliefs, ignorance and ego. Generally
speaking, all the yamas come under this niyama since they deal with eliminating
some or the other impurities.
Santosha (Contentment): a yogi is taught
to be happy and satisfied with his lot. He does not need to achieve any
Tapas (Religious austerities) : This niyama describes the
rituals like fasting: needed to fortify the mind. Yoga believes that this
increases the resistance power of the body and makes your body and mind stronger
and thus you can face adverse conditions effectively.
(Reading of religious literature): This practice is very useful for overcoming
ignorance and facing the adversities of life calmly. It helps to fill your mind
Ishwarpranidhana (Devotion): this teaches you to rely on
the divine will and to ascribe the effects of your action to the divine
providence. This is a very useful habit to cultivate as you can accept
everything as God's will and can achieve peace of mind. This eliminates the fear
Kevin Pederson, the webmaster for Yogawiz, mentions the importance of yoga and the benefits one can reap by it which
has cured serious illnesses.
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