The Yamas & Niyamas: A Path of Self-Healing & Personal Growth

The Yamas and Niyamas are yoga’s guiding principles for a healthy, happy, spiritually aware life. The ten guidelines (5 Yamas, 5 Niyamas) have roots in in what might seem like common sense, good values and how to live a healthy spiritual life. They can help us as we move forward in life by providing points of reference for making decisions and choices. They are reminders of the importance of one’s conscience as a guide. And they point out what is important in our relationships with others as well as ourselves.

But what about the past? We all have a history that weaves together threads of joy and pain, gifts and wounds and the ongoing tide of emotions that comes with being human. Habits and patterns that began long ago may no longer serve us. The Yamas and Niyamas can help us with the past as well as the future. When explored more deeply, each one has the potential to become a tool for significant healing of our past life experiences. They can help disentangle us from patterns we are ready to outgrow and release.

The Yamas and Niyamas provide us with a deceptively simple, yet profound tool for personal and spiritual growth. A conscious, mindful review of our lives in the light of these principles is ideal. This is best accomplished by setting an intention to do so, then finding the method that works best for you. You can set aside a daily quiet time for meditation and reflection on this,

or journal on each of the principles and how it can help you where you may have unfinished business or need healing with your past. Following is a simple, but hopefully clear, reminder of each of the Yamas and Niyamas:

The YAMAS: Guidelines for our relationships with ourselves and others:

“Do no harm” (ahimsa) – Be compassionate and care for  yourself, others and the world around you. Strive to side step subtle ways of harming such as being judgmental or critical.

“Be truthful” (satya) – Be congruent so that what you say and do clearly reflect your beliefs and feelings. Use discretion when speaking the truth would cause more harm than help. Know when to be silent.

“Don’t take what is not yours” (asteya) – Be honest and respectful of what is other’s. Be grateful for all that you have. Focus on your blessings.

“Be moderate” (brahmacharya) – Live life in balance. Know what is enough for you. Be the guardian of your energy and how you use it.

“Don’t be greedy” (aparigraha) – There is more than enough for each of us. Develop an attitude  of gratefulness and generosity.

The NIYAMAS: Guidelines for our own inner development:

“Strive for purity” (saucha) – Strive to be pure and clear in your intentions, thoughts and lifestyle. Keep your inner and outer worlds as clean as you can. Respect the environment.

“Be content” (santosha) – Strive to be at peace regardless of your circumstances by graciously accepting things you cannot change.  Strive for mindfulness with acceptance and be open to change, growth and improvement.

“Focus your energy in a disciplined way” (tapas) – Cultivate a strong intention, burning desire and determination to strive for and achieve your goals.  Encourage and support yourself.

“Self study” (swadhyaya) – Know yourself deeply through self-observation, inner processing and self-exploration. Discover the methods of self study and the teachers that help you to learn about yourself and grow.

“Connect with a Higher Power whatever that may be for you” (Ishvarapranidhana) – Follow your own personal spiritual path whatever it may be. Honor you Higher Power and leave the world a better place than it was when you arrived.


Copyright 2016 Kathleen Grace Santor, E-RYT 500

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