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Building a Strong Foundation: Yamas and Niyamas on the Mat

Have you ever wondered why yoga starts with ethics and self-discipline before we even get into the fun stuff like fancy poses (asanas)? The answer lies in Yamas and Niyamas, the first two limbs of yoga. They're like the foundation of your house – without a strong base, everything else crumbles.

Yamas: Moral Compass for Your Practice

Imagine ahimsa (non-violence) as the guiding principle. When you practice yoga, approach it with kindness. Listen to your body's whispers instead of pushing for a picture-perfect pose. Can you find a variation that feels good and honors your limitations?

image of Jacqueline in an arm balance

Imagine ahimsa (non-violence) as the guiding principle. When you practice yoga, approach it with kindness. Listen to your body's whispers instead of pushing for a picture-perfect pose. Can you find a variation that feels good and honors your limitations?

Satya (truthfulness) is about being honest with yourself. Are you forcing a pose that your body isn't ready for? What's the most truthful expression of the pose for you today?

Asteya (non-stealing) applies not just to material things. Don't compare yourself to others or try to copy their poses. Your yoga journey is unique!

Brahmacharya (moderation) reminds us to find balance in breath, movement, and even our thoughts. Are there areas in your practice or life where you're going overboard? Maybe it's pushing yourself too hard or holding onto unrealistic expectations.

Aparigraha (non-attachment) is about letting go. It encourages you to release worries, expectations, and fear on the mat. What can you leave behind so you can fully embrace the present moment?

Niyamas: Cultivating Self-Care on the Mat


Saucha (cleanliness) goes beyond wiping down your yoga mat. It's about internal purification through practices like pranayama (breathwork) or meditation. These can help clear your mind and prepare you for a deeper yoga experience.

Santosha (contentment) invites you to find joy in the present moment. Can you appreciate where you are in your practice, what your body is capable of, and how you feel right now?


Tapas (self-discipline) is the fire within that fuels your motivation. What ignites your passion for yoga? Is it the feeling of accomplishment, the sense of community, or the pursuit of personal growth?


Svadhyaya (self-study) asks you to observe without judgment. Notice how your body moves and how your mind reacts during practice. When things get challenging, how do you respond?


Ishvara pranidhana (surrender) is about letting go of what's outside your control. You can't control everything in life, but you can choose to release the tension and worries, at least for the time you spend on your mat.


By integrating Yamas and Niyamas into your practice, you build a strong foundation for a more mindful and fulfilling yoga experience, both on and off the mat.

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