5 Yamas + 5 Niyamas = 10 Habits
After being on this yoga and health path for just over 13 years, I’m viewing my wisdom in this area to be that of a young teenager. As I enter these transformative adolescent years on the journey, I’m starting to see a shift in my perspective with the new knowledge I continue to acquire. With that said, I’m sure we all have some type of story of revisiting something we experienced as a child as an adult, and how much different an experience it was. The example I always use is the 1987 movie, The Princess Bride. When I saw it as a child in the late 80’s, I thought it was scary and dramatic. Watching it many years later as an adult I was surprised to realize that it’s a comedy! A very funny comedy for that matter!
I recently revisited the Yamas and Niyamas for the first time since my first yoga teacher training in 2014. For those of you new to, and/or unfamiliar with the Patanjali’s eight-limbed yoga path, the Yamas and Niyamas are the first two limbs on the path. They are yogi’s guides on social and personal ethics in daily life. When I learned about these ethics seven years ago, still quite young in my spiritual pursuit, I remember thinking of them as obvious knowledge and things I already did. As I revisit them with my adolescent aged spiritual perspective, I’m seeing how they can become much more intricate in the way that they weave into our everyday life, and especially the 10 Body Thrive Habits!
If you are unfamiliar with the Yamas and Niyamas, here is a quick description of each.
5 Yamas – External Ethics – Macrocosm
Ahimsa: Non-violence, freedom from harming
Satya: Truthfulness, being genuine
Asteya: Non-stealing, freedom from taking what isn’t yours
Bramacharya: Moderation, celibacy
Aparigraha: Non-grasping, Non-hoarding
5 Niyamas – Internal Ethics – Microcosm
Saucha: Cleanliness, purity
Santosha: Inner Contentment
Ishvara Pranidhana: Surrender
The 10 Body Thrive Habits
As I was recently revising these internal and external ethics of life, I started thinking of each one in relation to the 10 Body Thrive Habits. Each Yama and Niyama supports all 10 habits if you really dive deep into it, but I thought it would be fun to pair each Habit with the individual Yama or Niyama that I personally see the most connection with at this time. If you are reading this, you are most likely already familiar with the 10 Body Thrive Habits, and if not, they will be listed below with my Yama and Niyama pairing.
5 Yamas + 5 Niyamas = 10 Body Thrive Habits.
Habit 1: Earlier Lighter Dinner → (Niyama) Tapas: Self-Discipline
Since this is the first habit, I paired it with Tapas. In the beginning, eating an Earlier Lighter Dinner, and all the rest of the habits take a lot of self-discipline to introduce into our lives, so why not make it a priority in the beginning to set us up for ultimate success? Throughout our lives we need to keep self-discipline cultivated deep within us to continue evolving. Once we light the internal flame of Tapas, the inner fire will continually be either fueled or damped by the choices we make in our habit evolution.
Habit 2: Early to Bed → (Yama) Asteya: Non-stealing
When we set with the sun in Early to Bed and get a full night's rest, we will wake up with greater energy the next day. When we stay up late, we are stealing our energy and health from tomorrow. By practicing Asteya, we work with the energy and health we have in the moment, and honor it when it runs out by going to sleep.
Habit 3: Start the Day Right → (Yama) Aparigraha: Non-hoarding
If we Start the Day Right, we rise with the sun, hydrate, and eliminate the waste from the previous day. If we don’t do that, we are hoarding things we don’t need within our bodies. By making Aparigraha a priority, we let go of what is no longer serving us and move more freely and authentically in life.
Habit 4: Breath Body Practices → (Niyama) Saucha: Cleanliness, purity
Breath Body Practices are a way of cleaning our channels physically, mentally, and spiritually. This regular practice of Saucha that goes beyond our living/working environments, will leave us feeling our purest at all levels and ready for whatever life brings us.
Habit 5: Plant-Based Diet → (Yama) Ahimsa: Non-violence
With a Plant-Based Diet, we are consuming the more vibrant colors of plants and less animals and processed foods. Non-violence in the sense of maintaining a vegetarian diet in the yoga tradition is a common theme, so for that reason this was an obvious pairing to me. As we reflect more deeply on bringing more Ahimsa into our daily lives, we will naturally gravitate toward foods that bring more life and less violence, such as plants.
Habit 6: Self-Massage → (Niyama) Svadyaya: Self-Study
There is no better way to literally study ourselves on the physical level than Self-Massage. It’s like the 150-point inspection we can do from head to toe to discover leaks, corrosions, inefficiencies, and energy resources. If we look at Self-massage as an act of Svadyaya, we discover how much power we have in our own hands to maintain ourselves.
Habit 7: Sit in Silence → (Niyama) Santosha: Inner Contentment
To those new to Sitting in Silence, it may currently have the opposite effect of Inner Contentment. Those with a regular sitting practice can probably vouch for experiencing inner contentment, whether it be slight flickers of it or a very deep and relaxing experiences of it. As we become more comfortable practicing stillness, we will naturally find more Santosha.
Habit 8: Healthier Eating Guidelines → (Yama) Satya: Truthfulness
If we are not following Healthy Eating Guidelines, we are not being truthful to our digestion. Eating too much, too little, things that aren’t good for us, and/or in an inconsistent rhythm is lying to ourselves. As we make deep Satya a priority in our daily lives, we will listen to the truth our body is telling us and feed it in a more authentic and nourishing way.
Habit 9: Come to you Senses → (Yama) Bramacharya: Moderation
As Come to Our Senses, we find a deeper connection with the information we are taking in and putting out and can regulate it in a more sustainable sense. While Bramacharya often focuses on the moderation of sex, it also extends into what we are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. When practicing Bramacharya, we discover an energetic balance of input and output through all senses.
Habit 10: Easeful Living → (Niyama) Ishvara Pranidhana: Surrender
The deeper and more refined we get into all the habits, the more Easeful Life becomes. It’s truly an act of surrendering into this ease, by trusting the deepest truths to surface in life. As we make Isvara Pranidhana a focus we let go into the natural flow around us and trust that our body, mind, and spirit will lead us into deep alignment.
Those are my pairings to make the 5 Yamas + 5 Niyamas = 10 Body Thrive Habits, but I encourage you to make your own connections as you decide which ones resonate together most in this moment for you. While this is my current adolescent understanding and translation of my experience, all levels and perspectives are legitimate! There are no wrong answers!
What I found interesting about my pairings was that Habit 1 started with Tapas, or Discipline, and Habit 10 ended with Ishvara Pranidhana, or Surrender, which are opposites. It aligns with the idea of spanda, or the pulsation of life that happens between opposites. As we continue to work with the 10 Habits and perhaps the Yamas and Niyamas, we can trust that the opposites we experience in life, whether positive or negative, healthy or sick, fortunate or tragic, beautiful or ugly etc,… will be exactly what we need to experience spanda in its most raw form. This is life.