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The Ethics of Yoga: Living with Integrity and Compassion


Yoga is not just a physical practice, but a way of life that emphasizes mindfulness, self-awareness, and compassion towards oneself and others. As such, ethics play a significant role in yoga practice. The ethical principles of yoga are collectively known as yamas and niyamas, and they provide guidance on how to live a moral and meaningful life.

The yamas are the five ethical guidelines that relate to our behavior towards others, while the niyamas are the five personal principles that relate to our behavior towards ourselves. The yamas are Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (moderation), and Aparigraha (non-attachment). The niyamas are Saucha (purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (discipline), Svadhyaya (self-study), and Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender to a higher power).

Living with integrity and compassion involves practicing these ethical principles on and off the mat. Ahimsa, for example, teaches us to avoid causing harm to ourselves and others, whether through physical violence, verbal abuse, or even unkind thoughts. Satya encourages us to be truthful and honest with ourselves and others, while Asteya reminds us to respect the property and possessions of others.

Brahmacharya emphasizes moderation and self-control, encouraging us to use our energy in a way that supports our physical, mental, and spiritual health. Aparigraha teaches us to cultivate a sense of detachment from material possessions and to let go of anything that no longer serves us.

The niyamas guide us in our personal practice, reminding us to cultivate cleanliness and purity (Saucha), find contentment in our lives as they are (Santosha), and practice discipline and self-control (Tapas). Svadhyaya encourages us to study ourselves and our actions, while Ishvara Pranidhana encourages us to surrender to a higher power and trust in the universe.

Living with integrity and compassion means that we strive to embody these ethical principles in our thoughts, words, and actions, both on and off the mat. It requires us to be mindful of our behavior towards ourselves and others, and to be willing to make choices that align with our values and beliefs. Ultimately, living with integrity and compassion can help us cultivate a deeper sense of peace, joy, and fulfillment in our lives.