The Yamas and Niyamas are the first two parts of Patanjali’s yoga of 8-limbs.
The ‘Yamas’ are principles to develop disciplines that helps us interact mindfully with the outside world:
1) Ahimsa: non-harming, including ourselves; developing a sensitivity to all living beings
2) Satya: truthfulness; being honest but not hurtful with your words
3) Asteya: non-stealing; not taking advantage of other people or taking what is not yours
4) Brahmacharya: sense-control; foster relationships that use your energy wisely
5) Aparigraha: non-hoarding, non-greediness; exercising restraint when it comes to acquiring and desiring material and emotional wealth
The ‘Niyamas’ are attitudes to be cultivated to form our personal path in life:
1) Sauca: cleanliness; inner and outer wholesomeness, including nourishing the body and mind with the right foods and thoughts
2) Santosha: contentment; to be at peace with yourself and your own lifestyle; be grateful and have a sense of humour and humility
3) Tapas: heat, perseverance, austerity; the concentrated practice of purifying the body and mind through asana, pranayama and meditation.
4) Svadhyaya: self-inquiry, self-study; to learn about yourself by applying yogic philosophy
5) Ishvarapranidhana: surrender to, and love for, the divinity within the individual; allow the divine actions to unfold without resentment or attachment
Have a look at the poster in front of the practice room, which summarises all the 8 limbs and spells out the yamas and niyamas. It is a good idea to remind ourselves before and after each practice of what the basic yogic rules are.