Yama and Niyama: A Simple Explanation

yama and niyama

If you have been to yoga classes on a regular basis, you may have heard the terms yama and niyama come up. Yama and niyama are the ethical guidelines for yogis. Think of them as the 10 commandments for yogis.

What are yama and niyama and where did they come from?

The yamas and niyamas are the first two limbs of the eight limbs of yoga. The earliest mention of Yamas was found in the Rigveda and Patanjali lists the Yamas and Niyamas in the Yoga Sutras.

The yamas refer to self regulating behaviors involving our interactions with other people and the world around us and the niyamas refer to personal practices that relate to our inner world.



  1. Ahimsa – nonviolence
  2. Satya – truthfulness
  3. Asteya – non-stealing
  4. Brahmacharya – non-excess
  5. Aparaigraha – non-greed



  1. Saucha – purity
  2. Santosha – contentment
  3. Tapas – self-discipline
  4. Svadhyaya – self-study
  5. Ishvara Pradidhana – surrender

Some of these concepts seem like no brainers on the surface. But when you really start working on them, they can be harder to follow than you might think. It is possible to follow Yama and Niyama. Some might need to take baby steps to get there.  I know I am still a work in progress. To learn more about each of the Yamas and Niyamas follow the links. I will keep updating content as I keep on my journey.

Tell me your thoughts about Yama and Niyama. Have you heard of these terms? 

12 thoughts on “Yama and Niyama: A Simple Explanation”

  1. This was really interesting to read. Ive done yoga on and off over the years but this year I really want go get into it more and be more disciplined with it!

  2. Mr. Straight and Narrow – If anyone was to tell me what my life would look like at this age, I would have run away screaming. Well maybe laughing. OK, possibly in stunned silence. Has anyone run away in stunned silence before? I wonder what that would look like. But I digress. So who am I? I am a middle aged white guy who isn't balding. Wait . . . that describes half the white guy population? Hmmm. . . . In truth I am just a guy trying to make his way on the planet just like everyone else. And ultimately share some of life’s adventures with people. Because somehow an adventure doesn’t feel like it happened unless someone else knows. Be honest, we’ve all asked the question if a tree falls in the forest and doesn’t make a sound, does it really fall. Because it’s at that moment of impact that the tree falling has meaning. And so does life. As we impact those around use is when our life takes shape. I won’t always do it perfectly. But to be perfectly imperfect and be vulnerable is the key. And so here I am, sharing life’s adventures and those rules along with you. There is a path out there for all of us. We just have to find out. And hopefully my sharing my path helps you with yours.

    You are right. Sometimes we look at the things we need to do and they seem so obvious. And yet things like self-discipline can be so difficult to master when it really comes down to it.
    David Elliott recently posted…Tuesday Talk: Why I’m So Excited About Knott’s Berry Farm In 2019

  3. Sabrina Barbante – Giornalista, blogger, scrittrice ('Il rumore della neve' e 'Ultimo Fuoco' i suoi primi due romanzi). Viaggiatrice compulsiva.

    I’m a yoga new be so these terms sound like a precious and mysterious code for me 🙂

  4. I started doing yoga last year, I haven’t done it much lately, but this post inspires me to pick it back up. I would love to give it a try again.

  5. Definitely cool, yoga is such a healthy experience. My husband isn’t impressed when I do yoga because he feels I should be doing more physically, but it is such a satisfying experience.

  6. hillcitybride – Virginia – Jennifer Prince is owner, editor and publisher of Hill City Bride wedding blog. This wife and mom of 3 hails from PA yet calls VA her home.

    This is so interesting! I’m looking into starting up yoga, so this is some great food for thought in understanding.

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