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Have you been looking for ways to be more mindful in the way you live? Are you seeking ways to live truer to your inner life?

Two practices on the eightfold path of yoga—the yamas and niyamas—offer a foundation.

The part of yoga you are most likely familiar with is Hatha Yoga. But that’s just one part of yoga. Raja Yoga governs the disciplines about controlling the mind and senses, and the first two branches on Patanjali’s eightfold path are yamas and niyamas.

They give you a foundation to navigate your life in a mindful, thoughtful and ever-growing awareness of what is needing your attention. These precepts can guide us to be truer to our inner life.

You become your thoughts. The more you practice a thought, the more you become that thought. I have often shared that with patients and their families. 

You can make a conscious decision to move through your pain with the right support toward a more healed, whole you. The words you have in your head or chose to listen to can and will have an impact on your life as you see it. Taoist tradition as well as many other traditions speak to this, as in the axiom, “Where you put your focus, you become an expression of that focus.”

Simply put, yamas are things not to do, niyamas are things to do. Yamas can be thought of as practices of self-restraint, while niyamas are virtues to cultivate, or observances.

Here’s a brief look at the yamas and niyamas, and I’ll be diving deeper in coming weeks.

YAMAS

  • Ahimsa is often simply translated as non-harming, non-violence.
  • Satya is truthfulness.
  • Asteya is non-stealing.
  • Brahmacharya is often seen as restraint or continence in a matter of sexual conduct.
  • Aparigraha is ‘freedom from desire’. It can be translated as ‘non-hoarding’ of things, ‘not being greedy’, and’ non-coveting ‘. 

NIYAMAS

  • Saucha is purity.
  • Santosha is contentment.
  • Tapas is self-discipline, or training your senses.
  • Svadhyaya is self-study, or inner exploration.
  • Isvara Pranidhana is surrender.

In the coming weeks, I’ll take a closer look at each one.

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