Ethical Observances: An Overview of the Yamas and Niyamas for Yoga Students

Posted by on Sep 3, 2012

Many know that there is more to yoga than postures and breath work. It is a philosophy, a science and a way of living. Even with the evolution of Yoga’s more physical manifestations, the core values that have been held since the time of Pantanjali continue to work for positive change in ones life. We wanted to offer a general overview of these precepts in terms that are understood by and resonate with the modern yoga student.

The Yamas include:

Ahimsa ~ Nonviolence, treating all living things, including yourself, with compassion, both in actions and in thoughts.
Satya ~ Truthfulness, being honest in your intentions, communications and actions.
Asteya ~ Non-stealing, avoid taking things that have not been freely given, including information.
Brahmacharya ~ Non-excess, not needing extravagance in life. Sometimes regarded as celibacy, but of one’s energy.
Aparigraha ~ Non-possessiveness, letting go of that which no longer serves our life, this may include relationships, property and thoughts.

The Niyamas are:

Saucha ~ Purity, cleanliness of the body, mind and environment.
Santosha ~ Contentment, finding satisfaction in ones own life.
Tapas ~ Self-discipline, using one’s energy with care and directing your energy towards good.
Svadhyaya ~ Self-study, taking time to reflect on ones life, through mediation and contemplation.
Ishvara Pranidhana ~ Surrender, let go and trust in the Universe.

Consider the above as recommendations for behavior and lifestyle that help to promote union. Incorporating these ideals into your practice and life takes time and intention. I recommend taking some time to decide what these precepts mean for you personally, looking at where and how they fit into your life. There are many ways to practice these observances, so you are sure to find ways to fit them into your life. You may decided that you want to focus on one per day or one per week.

In the future we plan to provide a more detailed and in-depth look at each Yama and Niyama and how these principles work to create change and oneness within and without.


by Ashley Freeman RYT

Ashley Freeman is a registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance. Certified in Raja Yoga, her experience includes private in-home lessons, workplace wellness programs, and group instruction teaching various class formats and yoga styles. Find her on

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