8 Limbs of Yoga; Yamas and Niyamas

In America we tend to focus on power, results and what something looks like – especially when it comes to our bodies. Yoga will give you power, results and good looks – but that is just the very tippy tip tip of the iceberg. I have seen some amazing results at Soul Shine, some people have lost weight – a good bit of weight, some are much more at peace and everyone leaves yoga class relaxed and alert. How do you measure the peacefulness of someone who literally can not breathe past their throat when they come into class, but after class they feel good, breathing into their belly then goes home and gets a good night sleep? We do not have a unit of measure for that. I think that these results of yoga are priceless, better than any number on the scale.

This brings me to the 8 limbs of Yoga. Here in America, we tend to focus on one limb – Asana. Asanas are the physical movements designed to bring our body into balance, lengthen our spine, harmonize your nervous system and get you strong enough to sit comfortably for 30+ minutes of meditation. Traditionally, that is the ultimate goal of Asana – to get you to sit. That is what the word Asana means, “to sit.”

Asana is moving into stillness.

Asana is the third limb, so I want to introduce you to the first two. The Yamas and Niyamas.

Basically speaking, the Yamas are how you treat others and the world around you; Niyamas are how you treat yourself. If you don’t have these two in alignment then (again, traditionally) you are not ready to practice Asana.


  • ahimsa = non-violence, non-harming, non-injury
  • satya = truthfulness, honesty
  • asteya = non-stealing, abstention from theft
  • brahmacharya = walking in awareness of the highest reality, continence, remembering the divine, practicing the presence of God
  • aparigraha = non-possessiveness, non-holding through senses, non-greed, non-grasping, non-indulgence, non-acquisitiveness


  • shaucha = purity of body and mind
  • santosha = contentment
  • tapah = training the senses, austerities, ascesis
  • svadhyaya = self-study, reflection on sacred words
  • ishvara = creative source, causal field, God, supreme Guru or teacher
  • pranidhana = practicing the presence, dedication, devotion, surrender of fruits of practice

So, how do you treat others? Violence is normally thought of as a physical act, but do you practice non-violent speech? We all lose our temper sometimes, and say things we do not mean to. Yoga can help us with that. (I am saying US because, yea, I am human and lose my temper sometimes – but not as often as I used to, just ask Mike.) Are you walking in awareness that there is something bigger than you out there? God, “the Universe”, spiritual energy, angels etc…working behind the scenes for your greater good?  How about purity of mind and body. LOL! LOL! LOL! We would have to be completely uninfluenced by TV, magazines, and run like the wind from the internet for our minds to be pure. Purity of the body…ha! Been out to eat lately? Practicing yoga will help you with this. I know we all get sick of seeing the nastiness on TV – and Yoga will help you discern when its time to turn it off – or even better let it just bounce off of you like a rubber ball. Yoga will also change the way you eat. You WILL become more aware of things that are going into your body that do not serve you.

Practicing Yoga will give you sort of a shield that you did not know was there before. The shield was always there, but you did not know it. God gave it to you. You become more calm on the inside, therefore not as easily influenced by the “outside” world. As Jesus said “Be in this world, but not of it.” This is the beginning and the end of Yoga.


About heatherswint

Hi! I'm Heather - Mom, Wife, Yogi, Music Lover, Clean Eater and Obsessed with Essential Oils.
This entry was posted in 8 Limbs of Yoga, Niyamas, Soul Shine, Yamas, yoga. Bookmark the permalink.

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