At least sixty ancient texts discuss the virtues known as yamas and niyamas, though the lists of virtues in these texts vary. Some are similar to those in the Yoga Sutras, while others list anywhere from one to 10 yamas and a similar number of niyamas. Most commonly, 10 of each are listed.
In yoga, the yamas and niyamas complement asana practice and vice versa, helping the individual find true yogic transformation.
Patanjali's five yamas include:
- Ahimsa (non-violence) – Avoiding physical and emotional violence toward the self and others.
- Satya (truthfulness) – Avoiding falsehoods and taking the path of Truth.
- Asteya (not stealing) – This applies not only to material things, but also includes opposition to oppression and exploitation.
- Brahmacharya (self-discipline and self-denial) – Maintaining control over physical impulses of excess.
- Aparigraha (non-possessiveness) – Letting go of what's not needed and possessing only what's necessary.
The five niyamas include:
- Shaucha (purity) – Maintaining purity of mind and body.
- Santosha (contentment) – Being accepting of others and one's own circumstances.
- Tapas (self-discipline) – Practicing intense self-control and willpower.
- Svadhyaya (self-study) – Reflecting on and studying the self, allowing the individual to see their own true and divine nature.
- Ishvara Pranidhana (devotion) – Contemplating and surrendering to the Divine or a higher power.