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The Yamas and the Niyamas – an introduction by Gillian Taylor

There is more to your yoga practice than the asana you do on your mat, if you want more. The eight limbed path of yoga encompasses the Yamas and Niyamas which are moral and ethical guidelines for living. The eight limbed path of yoga is described in Patanjalis Yoga Sutras and includes:

1. Yama (moral discipline)

2. Niyama (observances)

3. Asana (physical postures)

4. Pranayama (breathing techniques)

5. Pratyahara (sense withdrawal)

6. Dharana (concentration)

7. Dhyana (absorption or meditation)

8. Samadhi (enlightenment or bliss)

The Yamas and the Niyamas are a way of living and this moral code can guide us in our life and our practice on and off the mat and form the foundation of the practice. Yama describes 5 practices that are also known as “restraints.” These include:

1. Ahimsa (non-violence)

2. Satya (non-lying)

3. Asteya (non-covetousness)

4. Bramacharya (self-restraint)

5. Aparigraha (non-possessiveness)

Niyama refers to the internal practice and observances and includes:

1. Saucha (purity)

2. Santosha (contentment)

3. Tapas (self-discipline)

4. Svadhyaha (self study)

5. Ishvara Pranidhana (devotion)

Over the coming weeks we will be taking a brief look at each of these practices and how they relate to us personally in our own lives. Sometimes we think of ancient practices as not being relevant to us today but they are an important part of yoga practice and with an open mind we can all learn something.

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