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Understanding The Yamas in Yoga And Ayurveda Philosophy


The Yamas and Niyamas are principles for the spiritual practices of Ayurveda.

They tie into the philosophy of yoga and since Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences, they apply to both equally.

Yamas and Niyamas are part of the 8 rungs of Ashtanga Yoga, based on the classical Raja (Royal) Yoga system.

In this article, I will explore the importance of Yamas in yoga philosophy and how they relate to diet and Ayurveda.

They should be considered, contemplated and practiced as part of a healthy balanced or “Sattvic” lifestyle.

Yamas are social behaviors and moral principles. They reflect how you treat others and the world around you.

They are beneficial in refining your Buddhi or “Buddha Nature” – the faculty of the mind used for discrimination and right action.

Here are my interpretation of the 5 Yamas and how I have come to understand them and apply them in the practice of yoga and Ayurveda.

Ahimsa: The principle of Ahimsa is the means of practicing non-violence – including not hurting, not injuring and not harming others and sentient beings.

Practice of Ahimsa needs to be applied to speech, thought and actions.

In Ayurveda a good way to practice this is to not poison your mind, body and emotions with violent sensory impressions and food that is not good for you or produced and prepared in violent ways.

When Ahimsa becomes more predominate in your life, your relationships will change with yourself and others.

You will not only develop more gentleness and kindness towards yourselves and others but will attract that into your life.

Satya: The principle of Satya means to be true and honest with yourself and others.

It also means not to believe everything you hear from other people.

When you allow others’ opinions to effect your truth, you prevent yourself from listening to your own inner being and truth.

In Ayurveda a good way to practice this is by consuming foods that you know are right for your constitution type.

Experiment and listen to your inner body wisdom as well as your external body. Don’t let others tell you what you should eat without the proper evidence or knowledge.

When you practice satya in your life you will feel more content, relaxed and connected to spirit. Your inner wisdom shines and your wellness grows.

Asteya: The principle of asteya means not to steal or take anything that is not given to you.

In Ayurveda a good way to practice asteya is not take food from others without first asking or being offered it.

When you steal material goods or even experiences from others, it leaves them with less; they may have needed it more than you.

When you steal things such as food it leads you to become disrespectful and greedy which ties into the next Yama.

Aparigraha: The principle of aparigraha means non-hording. This could be with knowledge, food and material possessions.

In a practical sense it means only taking what is necessary without being greedy.

Simplifying and minimalizing is a form of aparigraha.

In Ayurveda a good way to practice this is to only eat until you feel two thirds full, thus not over-eating.

When you become greedy and hoarding you become attached to material things such as food which only leads to misery and bad health.

When you share, give freely and selflessly, you enhance your spiritual growth.

Brahmacharya: Brahamcharya means to have self-control over your mind, body and senses – it involves controlling specific urges and desires.

Brahamcharya can mean limiting your usage of the computer (email, facebook etc.), watching movies, and other distractions with prevent you from maintaining good health.

In Ayurveda a good way to practice this is to control your lust for food, as the food you eat is meant to nurture the body, not satisfy the senses.

This is where addictions arise – when you constantly need to satisfy your senses – leading to excessive behaviors and poor health.

The practice of brahamcharya is extremely important in building a strong will, discipline, and determination for spiritual growth.

In my next article, I will examine the Niyamas (inner discipline and responsibility) and how they relate to diet, Ayurveda, health and happiness.