The popular notion of yoga that is often propagated to our minds through the online media doesn’t actually define the true nature of what yoga is. Although the world is slowly recognising the effectiveness of practicing yoga for a better and healthier life, it has failed to realize the root essence of yogic culture.

Yoga Is Not About Physical Exercise

When we hear the word ‘yoga’, we unknowingly think of it as a kind of physical exercise where people make strange body postures. However, in reality, the original yogic science is deeply rooted in the process of spiritual awakening and enlightenment.

The entire yogic lifestyle is all about being the master of our inner self, which doesn’t want to work under the intellect portion of our brain. Thus, in order to take control of our relentless minds, there are strict disciplines made in the yogic practices that are required to be applied in daily life to grow spirituality.

Yama & Niyama Are The Base Of Spiritual Growth

In Hinduism, Yama and Niyama are said to be the fundamental basis for pursuing spiritual growth in life. Unless you incorporate these disciplines into your life, your journey to spiritual enlightenment will be incomplete.

Yama and Niyama are the first two sutras of the Patanjali Yoga Sutras. They each contain five rules or guidelines, where the Yama Sutras are associated with social morality, while the Niyama Sutras are for the development of personal ethics.

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In this article I am going to discuss the five rules or disciplines of yama sutras that are often said to be the most important foundation for the journey towards spiritual awakening. Those disciples are Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Aparigraha, and finally Brahmacharya.

Ahimsa (Non-Violence)

The first and most important discipline of the yama sutras is ahimsa, or the non-violent attitude of mind. If we observe our minds carefully, we’d find that most of our negative thoughts come from the violent nature of our emotions. 

The kind of content and information we feed into our minds ultimately determines the predominant state and characteristics of our emotions. Anger, hatred, and jealousy are some of the emotions that shape our minds with violent qualities. 

We may not want it to happen, but it comes out naturally without our control. Thus, removing such thoughts and gaining control over the mind to not indulge in any negative emotions is the first discipline of the Yama Sutra.

Satya (Truthfulness)

The second discipline that is required to advance in spiritual growth is Satya, or commitment to truth—both by thoughts and actions. In this discipline, you basically do what you say, and you say what you think. 

Your actions should reflect your intention or thoughts, or else it will not be called Satya. Just telling the truth is not enough; it must reflect on your actions too.

Asteya (Self-Reliance)

The third discipline of the Yama Sutra is Asteya, or not to steal. Not from yourself or anyone else for that matter. According to yama sutras, the root cause that provokes the idea of stealing is due to the lack of self-reliance.

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The moment you accept that you’re not good enough to achieve something on your own, the ego (which is basically a negative emotion that goes against the first discipline of ‘Ahimsa’) makes you think of other means to achieve it.

The majority of ancient Hindu texts put an extra emphasis on this attitude of mind, where greed, envy, and insecurity overpowers one’s ability to think righteously or stay with Satya (commitment to abide by the truth).

Brahmacharya (Celibacy)

The fourth discipline of achieving spiritual growth in life is practicing Brahmacharya from an early age. Actually, the ancient education system of India made it essential for every student to practise brahmacharya while they were studying under their gurukulas.

But now, people think of it as a lifestyle where people forcefully try to keep them away from indulging in any sensual activities. In other words, people often mistakenly associate brahmacharya with practicing celibacy.

However, in reality, its essence is far greater than just that. Brahmacharya, in its true essence, means committing the life energy to the heart center. I have written two articles explaining deeply the benefits of practicing brahmacharya and what steps are needed for someone to follow it righteously.

Aparigraha (Non-Attachment)

The fifth discipline of the yama sutras is aparigraha, or freedom from greed, possessiveness, and covetousness. In simpler terms, aparigraha means not taking more than what is needed, or sufficient. It also emphasizes the attitude of giving rather than taking.

According to yama sutra, when we accept something from others, it binds us in gratitude and develops a soft corner for them, which is a violation of the third discipline of yama sutra (Asteya, or, Self-Reliance). 

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Therefore, it’s advised that when you’re on your journey of seeking spiritual enlightenment, don’t accept anything unnecessarily from others; rather try to give to others, which will help you get free from material attachments in return.