Yoga’s ethical guidelines are laid out in the first two legs of Patanjali’s eightfold path. These guidelines are like a guidebook to help you navigate your life’s journey. The Yamas or restraints are the things you should avoid, and the niyamas or things to observe are the things to do. They form a moral code.

The five yamas are self-regulating behaviors that involve our interactions with others and the wider world.

Ahimsa: nonviolence

Satya Truthfulness

Asteya: non-stealing

Brahmacharya nonexcess (often misunderstood as celibacy).

Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-greed.

The five Niyamas are personal practices that connect to our inner world.

Saucha: purity

Santosha: contentment

Tapas Self-discipline, Training Your Senses

Svadhyaya: self-study, inner exploration

Isaura Pranitha – surrender

Micah Mortali is the Director of Outdoor Education and Programming and the Kripalu School of Mindful Outdoor Leadership founder. He believes addressing your character to support your physical practice is crucial. Micah states, “If you do pranayama or asana and don’t address your anger, depression, or violence, it will come out.” To contain your energy, you need a solid spiritual foundation.

“Without that foundation, you might inadvertently violate other people’s autonomy,” states Sally Kempton, a Kripalu presenter and meditation teacher. She is referring to financial and sexual scandals involving prominent yoga teachers.

Living the yamas and niyamas is the best way to learn them. Gandhi did it. Swami Kripalu outlined them in detail, stating that all the others would follow if one practiced. Sally says it is possible to approach the teachings in either a straightforward way or more subtly. Ahimsa can be translated as abstaining from harming another person. It can also refer to refusing gossip or speaking negatively about another person. Some people practice nonviolence towards animals by becoming vegetarians. Gandhi’s practice of ahimsa included all three.

Brahmacharya can be described as moderation. Others define it as managing their energy and abstaining from practices that drain it. Brahmacharya is a term that some people translate as celibacy. This vow was traditionally taken by yogis when they entered an ashram.

Sally believes most people find one or more of the ten practices difficult. It’s surrender for her. Micah states that he returns to Satya (or non-lying and is straightforward in his communication) repeatedly. Micah says that he learned how to manage his daily interactions by studying the yamas and niyamas, especially regarding difficult conversations. He says that he has been known to be both gentle and direct through his practice. Finding that balance is as essential as mastering Handstand and Tree pose.

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