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Yoga is a lifelong practice with infinite space for growth and learning. But it can also be defined in eight words: one for each of the eight limbs of yoga.


  1. Yama – respect for others
  2. Niyama – respect for yourself
  3. Asana – harmony with the body
  4. Pranayama – harmony with the breath
  5. Pratyahara – harmony with your emotions
  6. Dharana – harmony with your thoughts
  7. Dhyana – meditation
  8. Samadhi – ecstasy

It is always valuable to refresh our understanding of these principles. They are a guide for life in and out of the yoga studio. Let’s start by looking at the first two


Yama – respect for others


This is the ethical foundation of yoga. It instructs us to practice non-violence, and to not steal, covet or chase sexual gratification. These are basic principles of many belief systems, and the basis for respectful behaviour. By approaching them mindfully we can improve our relationships with others and live harmoniously.

Niyama – respect for ourselves

We all have responsibilities, duties, errands, to-do lists. Often they take up so much of our energy that we don’t make time for cultivating the spiritual practices of yoga which are: purity, contentment, austerity, study (of scriptures), and devotion.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a “spiritual” person these practices ways to enhance self-awareness and improve relationships. Each of the five elements applies to secular as well as spiritual life. We can benefit ourselves and others by living clear, content, simple lives.

In my next post I’ll talk about asana and pranayama.

Questions or comments? Please share!