Basics of Yoga Philosophy – Yama and Nyama

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The traditional yoga system is based on a set of ethical and moral rules, known as

In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali indicates these two etpae, Yama and Nyama as the first to be understood and applied in the practice of yoga. On them is based the obtaining of authentic results.

Every being who truly attained perfection in Yama and Nyama is a perfect being. The yoga system (traditional nondualist), as a whole, offers us a way to perfection, having an extraordinary practical efficiency.


They represent certain “defeats”, “constraints” or “resctrictions” regarding our life and our relationship with the environment and the people around us.
According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras , the five yamas are as follows:

1. Ahimsa – non-violence.

Observing this yama involves not doing harm not to any being, but let us not harm ourselves either. It represents unconditional and respectful care for everything that exists, manifested in deeds, thoughts, tendencies.

In Sanskrit the prefix “a” translates to “no” or “without”, and “himsa” means to hurt, to offend, to kill, to act with violence.

Ahimsa is the first of the five yamas and the most important of them.

  • Non violence is one of the most important rules of conduct for a person on the spiritual path.
  • It is the key to keeping our relationships in a state of balance and harmony. When we are in a state of inner peace, this fact is also reflected in our outer life, bringing peace to the world.
  • On a deeper level, ahimsa is less of a conscious process than a natural consequence of yoga practice. As the inner journey unfolds, we are led to new levels of awakening consciousness, to the true peace in our heart.
  • In the practice of ahimsa yoga can be defined by a deeper self-acceptance, by gentleness and forgiveness both towards oneself and towards others.

Tradition says that when ahimsa is fully assimilated, a deep, surprisingly strong inner confidence and stability arises.

2.SatyaThe Truth

This yama means not saying what we know is untrue.

We must not violate the first rule by this – to do harm.

  • It can also be defined as abstaining from lying.

  • S
    atya is also the recognition in every moment of divine Truth.
  • Satya means looking at and relating to the world around us, in an objective way, as it presents itself, and not as we would like it to be.
  • Outwardly we will refrain from telling lies, and we will try to speak with compassion and clarity.

3. Asteya – non-theft

This yama involves not acquiring objects or even ideas that do not belong to us. Not in the sense of not learning what others have said, but not presenting those ideas as our own.

  • We are used to associating theft with tangible objects. In the world we live in, information, ideas can also be stolen.

The desire to take what does not belong to us stems from a state of apparent incompleteness, or envy. The solution is to practice giving in whatever situation we find ourselves in. Give food, money or time. Since wealth is ultimately just a state of mind, you will feel much richer, when you give in a disinterested and unconditional way, and inside you will feel much more fulfilled and enriched spiritually.


or sexual continent

Brahmacharya refers to the control of the sexual energy and involves the preservation of the sexual potential, the avoidance of its loss through active abstinence (that is, by reorienting the vital and sexual energies for spiritual purposes) or through the amorous fusion with the sexual continent.

In lietral translation brahmacharya means “going into the consciousness of God“. Basically this represents the fact that our mind turns inward, balancing and controlling the senses, leading us to liberation from addictions and unbridled desires. We can better conserve our sexual energy by cultivating a more moderate activity of the senses, or being loyal to our partners, when we are in a relationship.


or non-possessiveness.

The fifth yama involves the lack of avarice, not to accumulate knowledge that we do not need, and not to attach ourselves to our possessions.

In Sanskrit graha means “to grab”, “to take” and pari means “things”: aparigraha means “Do not take possession of things”, or detach yourself from them. Practicing this yama helps us to have a balanced relationship with the things around us, which we have the habit of attributing to us as “our own”.

A yogi aphorism says that “ all things in the world are ours to use them, but not to possess them”. This is the essence of aparigrah.” Whenever we become possessive, we are in turn possessed, by the things we have, and to which we cling with all our might.

Through the practice of aparigraha, we manage to examine our false beliefs about ourselves, about what really belongs to us and what does not belong to us, and it guides us to healthier relationships with those around us.

In other yogic treatises we find five more yamas, which are considered to have a lesser importance but which are also essential for our spiritual perfection, these are:

a. ksama or patience – which involves living in the present, here and now, without unnecessary expectations or regrets to disturb our minds. It can also be the patience to practice meditation until its effects begin to manifest.

b. Dhrti or perseverance – which involves the ability to overcome any obstacles that stand in the way of spiritual practice, and that gives us the strength to go to the end in the directions we have proposed.

c. Daya or compassion – which involves a manifestation full of kindness, love and understanding towards all beings that exist in the universe.

d. Arjava or honesty – which involves being honest and honest, avoiding to fool or deceive those around us.

is. Mitahara or a good diet – which involves avoiding eating too much or too little and also eating only pure foods.

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Nyama represents the second branch of the eight branches of Yoga, (Ashtanga Yoga) and represents virtuous actions and habits through the cultivation of which spiritual realization is achieved. According to Yoga Sutras, the five Nyama’s are the following:

1. Saucha or purification

The wise Vyasa states in his commentary on Patanjali’s sutras: “Of these five (nyama), purification is accomplished with earth or water or with something similar, by fasting or other requirements related to purified food.”

In conclusion,
represents the purification activity performed at all levels of the being insisting especially on the purity of the mind. Patanjali, in YOGA SUTRAS, chap. II, sutra 41, states: “Through the practice of mental purity one acquires happiness, the focus of the mind, the control of the mind, the vision of the self.”

  1. Santosa or contentment

Patanjali states in YOGA SUTRAS, chap. II: “Out of thanksgiving springs the supreme happiness.” It is not simply a passive acceptance of the circumstances in which you find yourself but, rather, an active approval of the beings around you, an active approval of the circumstances, in order to make the most of them, even if at first glance they seem unfavorable.

  1. Tapas or spiritual effort (austerity)

The word TAPAS derives from the root TAP= “to burn”, “to burst into flames”, “to shine”, “to suffer pain” or “to be consumed by fire”. It therefore means an ardent effort made at all levels in any circumstance to achieve a clear purpose in life. TAPAS involves purification, self-discipline and austerity. The whole science of building a character or a personality can be regarded as a practice of TAPAS. TAPAS represents a conscious effort to burn all the desires that prevent us on the way to the proposed goal, is the effort to achieve the last fusion with the Divine.

4 . Svadhyaya or the study of sacred texts

SVA means “Self” and ADHYAYA means “study” or “education”. Education means outlining and flourishing the best aspects that exist in a being.
therefore means “the education of the Self”.

involves the spiritual reading, in a state of elevation of consciousness, of some sacred texts, such as: SHIVA SAMHITA, HATHA YOGA PRADIPIKA, YOGA SUTRAS of Patanjali, VIJNANA BHAIRANA TANTRA, SHIVA SUTRAS, GHERANDA SAMHITA.

5. Ishvarapranidhana or the worship of divinity. ISHVARA means “God” and PRANIDHANA means “uninterrupted devotion” or “self-giving”. ISHVARAPRANIDHANA means the consecration of actions, feelings, thoughts and aspirations to God. He whose mind and heart will be filled with love for God will no longer be troubled by pride or the desire for power, eliminating from his mind any selfish thought.

Ishvarapranidhana , by uniting the mind with the heart in the Divine, confers energy, mental power and spiritual enlightenment. Through adoration, the mind is emptied of desires and becomes full of thoughts for God. Ishvarapranidhana is a practice that must be done every moment. A form of beginning consists in uttering prayers at the beginning of each day or in the more special moments as well as before each meal. The highest stage in the realization of Ishvarapranidhana has the effect of unlimited knowledge of everything that exists, but this knowledge is not received from the outside.


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