Ethics in Yoga

The art and core of being

As with the ten commandments of the Christian bible and the more ancient Egyptian 142 commandments, the social and personal ethics known as Yama and Niyama are the rules which we must abide by for self realisation and for our survival as a society or civilisation. In other words, these constitute a formula for world peace and internal harmony.


  • Peacefulness (ahimsa)
  • Truthfulness (satya)
  • Honesty (asteya)
  • Continence (Bramacharya)
  • Acceptance (aparigraha)


  • Purity (saucha)
  • Contentment (santosa)
  • Ardor or Austerity (tapas)
  • Self study(svadhyaya)
  • Dedication to the Lord (isvara pranidhana)

Why Ethics? Thesocial ethics, when practiced, bring about a harmonising of the community. They build trust and friendliness. Personal ethics assist us to see our true colours, to experience through feeling our innermost self.

In community, the practices of Yama create and support a peaceful society and are considered social ethics.

  • Peacefulness:
    In a peaceful society, people feel safe, and when they feel safe are less likely to suffer delusion and greed thereby channeling energy expended in self protection into creative living.
  • Truthfulness:
    Being truthful with oneself and others leads to clearer communication and real understanding between people.
  • Honesty:
    Helps to develop community through trust.
  • Continence:
    To contain one's assets and power and act responsibly.
  • Acceptance:
    Non judgement of ourselves or others, for who am I to judge.

Yama at a Personal level.

  • The path of non-violence, without force.
    This is a way where we come to accept and understand our limitations and boundaries that we may progress in safety and surety of knowledge. It must be seen both impersonally and personally, or internally and externally.
  • Truthfulness:
    It is only in being truthful to ourselves that we may become to experience our divinity.To see ourselves as we really are. Here dawns understanding. Here we come to discover and appreciate our own unique truths.
  • Honesty: with ourselves, without this how can we be honest with others. Be honest with both thought and feelings. This is the path which leads to, or reveals, our own truth.
  • Continence:Self containment,
    Not squandering our energy, thereby remaining focused on our goals. This is an aid to tapas, avoiding excess.
  • Acceptance without judgement:
    It is only though acceptance without any judgment in any way, that growth or change is possible.By first accepting the self, the experiencing of self is possible, then self can be transformed, remade or healed.


Traditionally these are seen as the personal ethics.

  • Purity: of heart and mind leads to clarity of vision, purpose and understanding. It raises our frequency, and the range of our perception increases. Socially it is our intent in the world.
  • Contentment: is cause of true compassion. It opens the eye to seeing the relative truths of things. Here we see the nature of the world's suffering.
  • Ardor - Austerity: this is a process of self discipline (not denial) creating a heat which consumes our afflictions. The middle way to the Buddha.
  • Self Study: Know thy self, in all thy ways and whiles. And as we know the self the inner worlds are revealed.
  • Dedication to the Lord; All of one's thoughts actions and deeds need to be thus directed, as the Lord is within us. This is a process of serving the highest aspect of our True Self.

Yamas and Niyamas are mutually supportive.

They must be practised simultaneously and without which yoga cannot be practised as they form the ethical foundation for practice.

An excellent overview of yoga ethics is found in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.


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