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International Yoga Day- Practice of Yoga is incomplete without Yama and Niyama

23 min read

The 2687fbd57-0b6b-4940-80a3-9020e53c8af91 st of June shall be the day when the whole world would come together to perform yoga on the International Yoga Day.This is indeed a momentous occasion for all the people who are practitioners of Yoga or are interested in it; however, not many would be aware of the fact that Yoga is an integral part of Ayurveda.

While governments and institutions across the world are busy preparing for the occasion, and have issued standard protocol guidelines where certain Asanas and Pranayamas would be performed by the people assembled but would the clinical delivery of the postures  bring health benefits and wellness to the peoples. It is a profound question that needs a careful thought and deliberation.

It is very likely that the people who would perform Yoga during the International Yoga Day celebrations shall have an elementary idea that Asanas and Pranayamas are part of the eight limbs of the Asthanga Yoga viz. Yama, Niyama, Asana,Pranayama, Pratyahar, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.

However, unless the disciplines of Yama and Niyama are diligently followed, the benefits of Asanas and Pranayamas are tantamount to zilch. Therefore it becomes imperative that the peoples of the world are also told about Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha along with Asanas and Pranayamas so that they can avail the full benefits- physical,mental, emotional and spiritual- from Yoga along with good health and wellness.

One should however not be confused by the word ‘Yama,’ as the God of death is also called ‘Yama’ in Samskrit. The ‘Yama’ in Yoga has nothing to do with the God of Death but is a collective word used for the five disciplines- Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha.


Though a very profound word in itself, to a layman Ahimsa would mean an act, deed or thought which should not cause violence or sorrow to a fellow human being. Himsa means violence at physical and non-physical levels. Hence Ahimsa”means not to cause violence, sorrow or misery through a conscious act, deed or thought. Any act that causes harm to a fellow human being, other species and nature is termed as Himsa. Therefore, the follower of Ahimsa refrains from committing such acts and thoughts.

According to Mahatma Gandhi, unworthy thoughts are also Himsa, to haste is Himsa, uttering a lie is Himsa, animosity is Himsa, having an ill will is Himsa, to grab hold on essentials which are needed by the world is also Himsa. In addition, to commit violence either by words or deed, to cause hurt, sorrow and grief is Himsa. To avoid all of the above would be termed as Ahimsa.


Satya translated into the English language would mean Truth. But this is an incomplete and somewhat fallacious translation. Satya is a very wide and diverse concept, for it is the foremost pillar of our very existence and that of the universe. One can perhaps say that to tell truth in our life is mere a nano element of the atoms which comprise Satya, perhaps as small as a droplet of water when compared with an ocean.


To not steal or to covet someone else’s possession and belongings is something Asteya would be translated into. As to take someone’s possessions and belongings without one’s knowledge or permission is theft. To take someone’s earnings, to take control of something which is not duly owned by a person without the knowledge or permission of the owner either by force or deceit is termed as Steya. To avoid the tendency of Steya, is called Asteya.


A simplistic definition of Brahmacharya is sexual abstinence or celibacy. People especially Yogis, Sadhus, and Monks who avoid sexual intercourse are termed as Brahmacharis. However, it is a very limited and incomplete meaning of Brahmacharya.

Brahmacharya means to delve in the absolute, to engross oneself deep in truth, and to realise and harness the potential of one’s existence fully like that of Brahma.

Mahatma Gandhi has elucidated upon the concept beautifully-One should always remember the true meaning of Brahmacharya. For it means the very pursuit of truth, and the practice undertaken to secure the same. To have one’s full control and restraint over one’s senses rather than a narrower focus on celibacy which somehow limits the scope of the concept and narrows it down thereby compromising its essence. Instead of the whole, when one tries to focus only on one sense, one fails to grasp the concept both in theory and in practice. To pay heed to unworthy thoughts, to devour and find delight in what tantalizes one, to indulge in unworthy activities while practicing sexual abstinence is like walking between the rock and a hard place. Therefore, it is always advisable that the one who wants to venture into practicing abstinence should try to gain control over one’s senses first in a complete manner.


Aparigriha means a sense of non-attachment and non-endearment towards any idea, person, or object. The one who upholds a sense of detachment towards things preempts being a victim of expectation, and also overcomes most of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual ordeal and distress.

Having expectations leads one towards having anxieties which affect our mind and well-being. It is a major cause of psychosomatic disorders. According to scientists, more than 70 percent of the diseases that affect us have their origins in our mind.

Yoga believes that the origin of diseases occurs in our mind and brain. This is the very premise on which Yoga suggests that in the pursuit of wellness one should strive to master one’s mind through Yama and Niyama.

Yama is aided by its natural complementary practice called Niyama which are five in number.

 Shauch– Hygiene both physical and emotional that leads towards purification of body and mind;

 Santosh – To be content, satisfied and blissful;

 Tup – To keep oneself tenacious through discipline;

 Swadhyaya – To develop a practice of introspection;

 Ishwar Pranidhaan- To have a sense of devotion and dedication towards the Divine.

Therefore it is posited that unless one follows the practice of Yama and Niyama diligently, one cannot avail the full benefits of one’s practice of Yoga.

It is advisable that the information about Yama and Niyama is disseminated well in advance by the organizers of the International Yoga Day who develop the regimen of the Asanans and Pranayamas to be conducted on the day so that peoples of the world can benefit from Yoga and secure wellness.

– Dr. Navin Joshi M.D. and Pt. Manish Uprety F.R.A.S. **

** The authors are the founders of the Ayush Darpan Foundation, India

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