Take a Yoga Class to Embody the Yamas and Niyamas from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras
The Yamas and Niyamas are part of the Eight Fold Path from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
The Sutras guide living an ethical life and provide a foundation for practitioners to engage in action and observe themselves.
The Yamas and Niyamas outline techniques to govern our shared and internal worlds.
Yamas and Niyamas Yoga Class Collection
20-40 Minute practices to explore the 5 yamas and 5 niyamas with Vinyasa, Slow Flow, Hatha, Meditation, and Yoga Nidra!
The Yamas are the social observances to uphold as we engage the public sphere.
The Niyamas are the personal observances we uphold to manage ourselves as we navigate the ongoing flux within and all around us.
Clara created a collection of classes for each of the Yamas and Niyamas that embody the theme and illustrate how to weave yogic philosophy into a class.
Movement is a tactile way to express the energy of each Yamas and Niyamas.
For yoga teachers –
Weaving the philosophy into your sequences is a wonderful tool to help students (and yourself!) learn the precepts.
The Five Yamas of Yoga
Ahimsa – nonviolence in thought, word, or deed.
Ahimsa is the first of the 5 yamas – the ethical observations we as yogis/yoginis, try to practice. Ahimsa is the idea of non-violence, peace, or radical self-love.
This is a practice of non-harming towards self and others through any physical, mental, or emotional violence that we create. To work with ahimsa, one may practice accepting things for what they are and work with compassion to approach things with an open heart and concern for others and the environment.
Questions to consider for Ahimsa:
What does non-violence mean to you?
What does it look like in practice towards yourself mean?
What does it look like when you are with others?
What does it mean it the greater, global context?
What is the opposite of non-violence – what word would you choose?
Satya – truthfulness
Satya translates as truth or essence, one of the five yamas from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
Questions to consider for Satya:
How do you express your truth?
Where do you feel most confident speaking/acting your truth?
Who inspires you to live honestly?
This is a practice of living and speaking truth at all times. Gossip, assumptions, and lies are the opposite of living with Satya. One may speak from a place of honesty and act with integrity when honoring Satya.
Asteya – freedom from avarice.
Asteyra is the idea of non-stealing. This could be physical, regarding not taking items that do not belong to you. It could also be energetic, regarding an awareness of how you are taking other people’s time, space, and attention.
Quote that anchors the class:
“Have fair trade be your mantra—not only in your shopping habits but also in all of your day-to-day interactions. Respect the time and energy of others, give credit where credit is due, and see if you can help build up the world’s kindness reserves by giving more than you take.”
Questions to consider for Asteya:
- Are you aware of how you take up space, time, and attention?
- What does it feel like to give more than you take?
- What do you give when you enter shared space with others?
This is a practice of abstaining from stealing and taking what doesn’t belong to you or is not freely given. Generosity and rejecting oppression, social injustice, and exploitation are ways to honor Asteya.
Brahmacharya – control of sensual pleasure.
Brahmacharya is generally translated as celibacy. Another interpretation is refraining from wasting your energy, holding on to your own Prana, and moving it/giving it to the directions that serve your higher purpose.
Quote that anchors the class:
“Notice how the situation doesn’t need your stress to resolve itself. And by not giving so much energy to intense moments—by not squandering your life force—you can be more at ease in all moments.” – Source.
This is a practice of continence in controlling our physical impulses for pleasure through attachment and addiction. When we break the attachment bond, we develop more courage and self-confidence.
Questions to consider for brahmacharya:
- Where do you put your energy?
- Is this the best place to put your focus?
Aparigraha – freedom from covetousness and possession beyond one’s needs.
This is a practice of letting go of what no longer serves and any excess. Taking only what is necessary and observing how our habits inform our lives would honor aparigraha.
Quote that anchors the class:
“To invite aparigraha, try a simple practice. Acknowledge abundance and practice gratitude. You don’t need more and more if you are grateful and feeling fulfilled with what you have at this moment.” – Source.
Questions to consider for Aparigraha:
How does abundance appear in your life?
What are you grateful for?
The Five Niyamas of Yoga
Saucha – purity or goodness.
Saucha is the first of the niyamas- the self-observances – from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It generally translates as ‘purity’ and helps us cultivate a clear and clean space for meditative practice.
The physical practice is an action of Saucha as it cleanses our bodies, spirits, and minds so that we can move with more ease.
Questions to consider for Saucha:
Do you see any physical clutter around you? If so, how can you create more space in your space?
Do you have any mental distractions? What are they?
Santosha – contentment
Santosha is the second of the Niyamas from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It is the quality of being happy and grateful for what you have – it is different from joy or happiness in that it is a mindset and not a spontaneous feeling.
Do this practice seated or lying down, get comfortable, and feel free to use as many or as few props as you prefer.
Questions to consider for Santosha:
How do you experience contentment? Where are you? What are you doing?
- How do you determine the difference between joy, excitement, and contentment?
Svadhyaya – self study
Svadhyaya is generally translated as ‘self-study.’
One of the ways I like thinking about it is that we are waves, like the ocean. We are a part of the ocean, this consciousness of awareness and divinity. By studying ourselves and the waves, we also look at the ocean/Divine/energy.
The more we reflect, observe, and understand ourselves, the more we can understand the collective. If we understand the micro, we can understand the macro.
A simple Hatha yoga class that features Mandala Namaskars, you’ll move through shoulder-opening and back strengthening before coming into locust pose (shalabasana) and an active pigeon (kapotasana).
Questions for Svadhyaya:
What do you observe about yourself?
What do you feel?
What is the quality of your breath?
Ishvara Pranidhana – devotion
Generally translated as ‘giving it up to God’ or ‘offering it all to something greater than yourself.’ It is truly an act of surrender.
“Ishvara Pranidhana can be called heartfulness practice. It awakens our constant devotion to the source of life and keeps our hearts open to the divine at any moment, no matter what arises.”
– Shiva Rea.
A smooth Hatha practice opens with Hasta Mudra and a moving meditation; you’ll move through poses to strengthen the legs, open the hip flexors/hamstrings, and express the spine and side waist.
You’ll take kapalbhati (aka skull shining breath) to clear stagnant energy before savasana.
This class is great for those who enjoy running, cycling, and hiking.
Open your heart to the present moment to connect to your own divinity or the divine that is all around you.
Tapas – discipline
Tapas is usually translated as discipline and heat, but it also is translated as ‘training your senses.’
The way to consider it in a restorative practice is to observe the senses without doing anything about them. In this way, we can understand what information is coming in without reacting to it.
A short restorative class that treats you to a few simple postures to create calm and relaxation, you’ll move through a supported supine bound angle pose (Baddha Konasana), a supported supine twist, and a supported child’s pose (Balasana) before coming to meditation or savasana to close.