The 10 Principles of Yoga
Self-restraint and discipline are not the only values integral to yoga. Find out why yoga comes up trumps.
Yoga, now a popular holistic practice of health and wellness, is actually a 3,000 year-old tradition. It aims to bring about union or integration of the body and mind. Regular yoga practice encourages flexibility, strength, greater awareness and well-being. People who regularly practice yoga often report a change in life perspective and a sense of rejuvenation that enables them to live their lives more fully. Yoga postures and breathing techniques are well known and widely practiced today, but what about the very principles upon which the entire practice of yoga is based?
The ten principles or ethical precepts of yoga include the yamas which are restraints or abstinences for proper conduct, and niyamas, observances that foster a conscious lifestyle. These include the following:
- Non-violence or ahimsa – This essentially means being kind and considerate. In our daily lives, we can do this by being more environmentally conscious.
- Honesty or Satya – Being honest with yourself and others. This also means that we refrain from using unkind or unnecessary words which are in contradiction with the greater truth. Sometimes it may not be desirable to be truthful as it could harm someone. Here we need to reflect upon what and how we say something. Yogic practice says that it’s better to be silent in moments of doubt.
- Non-stealing or Asteya – Abstaining from stealing or cheating. One’s professional life must be honest and fair without any pursuit of unfair advantage. Hoarding is also undesirable according to this principle, since we are keeping more than we need instead of sharing it with those who may need it more.
- Wisdom or Brahmacharia – Living a life with clear spiritual focus and concentrating on inner happiness and peace, rather than external gain. This principle relates to keeping possessions in check and controlling addictions and impulses.
- Simplicity or Aparigraha – It is important to have some amount of material possessions to live comfortably, but overindulgence or obsession should be avoided. We need to see these material possessions simply as tools that enable us to achieve our higher goals.
- Surrender to divine will or Ishvara-Pranidhana – This implies doing the best we can and surrendering all attachments to divine will. By relinquishing attachment and fear, we are able to live in the present.
- Purification or Shaucha – Cleanliness or purity is significant not only in the way we maintain our physical self and living environment, but also in our thought and speech.
- Practice of self-discipline or tapas – This principle is often taken to mean difficulty. While it is possible that to achieve something good, we need to experience certain difficulty, it is not always true. Another approach to this principle is to be consistent on your path towards your goals. In the case of yoga practice, it could mean starting your yoga routine every day or sitting in meditation everyday or in relationships it could mean, being forgiving towards your family repeatedly.
- Self-study or svadhyaya – Self-exploration through meditation and inquiry enables you to know yourself better. This highlights destructive tendencies and encourages you to be more centered.
- Contentment or santosha – Actively practicing contentment frees you from relying on external factors for your inner peace and happiness. The external world is always changing and can never fully be in our control. Therefore this practice empowers you to enjoy the present and be content with whatever you have.
It’s important not to be dogmatic about these principles. It’s best to interpret them in a manner which brings both inner peace for you and does good for those around you.