The Ethos of Yoga – The Yamas and Niyamas

The ultimate intention of yoga practice is not simply strength, flexibility or even a calm mind, but to work towards becoming an integrated human being in all ways. Yoga means looking after and connecting to all parts of ourselves; body, mind and soul.  Through this connection we can observe our behaviours and their consequences in a healthy, truthful, kind manner.

The original yoga practitioners, after many centuries of accumulated practice, formalised a set of suggestions which they had found led to a happy, deep, rich life. The so-called Yamas and Niyamas were expressed from around 300BC. Times have changed, become more complex, yet these guidelines can help us today more than ever.  By following this ethos*, we can more easily conduct our daily activities with physical and mental health and happiness.

In class for the first half of this term we will be looking at qualities which influence our behaviour and help us to co-exist harmoniously with others and to be respectful to ourselves (The Yamas).  After that we will explore the observances to keep and the good habits to develop. (The Niyamas)

The Yamas and Niyamas are not about right, wrong and rules…they are not strict ethics per se.  They are basic common sense.  Living according to the yogic ethos is about a better life in the long run.

*(Ethos: The characteristic spirit of a system …the distinctive features of a particular culture or group as opposed to Ethics: standards of right or wrong)

Yamas (Yama originally meant bridle or rein…think of a rider using reins to guide the horse’s direction.)

Ahimsa (Kindness)

Satya (Truthfulness)

Asteya (Honesty/Non- stealing)

Brahmacharya (Moderation or abstinence)

Aparigraha (Letting go/non-grasping or hoarding)


Saucha (Purity)

Santosa (Contentment)

Tapas (Determined effort)

Svadhyaya (Study of the self and the universe)

Isvara Pranidhana (Surrender/Awareness of the Divine)