Yama vs Niyama – Difference and Comparison

What is Yama?

Yama is the first of the ten ethical restraints (Yamas) in Hinduism. It is the principle of nonviolence. The practice of nonviolence (ahimsa) is important in Hinduism because it upholds the principle of respect for all life. All life is seen as sacred and interconnected, and therefore violence toward any living thing is seen as violence toward oneself.

Yama is the first step on the Eightfold Path. It is the foundation on which the rest of the path is built. Yama is the ethical and moral discipline of yoga. It is the practice of self-restraint and control. The five yamas are ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (chastity), and aparigraha (non-possessiveness).

The practice of non-violence is Ahimsa. It includes not only physical violence, but also mental and emotional violence. It entails the exercise of love and compassion. The practise of honesty is satya. The act of not stealing is known as asteya. Chastity is practised through brahmacharya. The discipline of aparigraha involves being non-possessive.

The yamas are the foundation of the Eightfold Path because they provide the ethical and moral framework for our practice. They help us to develop self-control and to act in ways that are in alignment with our values.

What is Niyama?

Niyama is the second limb of yoga, and includes the practices of saucha (purity), santosha (contentment), tapas (self-discipline), svadhyaya (self-study), and isvara pranidhana (surrender to the divine).

Saucha, or purity, is the practice of keeping both our physical and mental spaces clean. Santosha, or contentment, is the practice of finding happiness in what we have, rather than constantly chasing after what we think we need. Tapas, or self-discipline, is the practice of making time for our yoga practice even when we don’t feel like it.

Svadhyaya, or self-study, is the practice of turning inward and getting to know ourselves on a deeper level. Isvara pranidhana, or surrender to the divine, is the practice of letting go of control and trusting that everything will work out in the end.

Difference Between Yama and Niyama

  1. Yama and niyama are two important concepts in yoga. They are referred to as the “two pillars of yoga.” While they are similar in some ways, they are also quite different.
  2. Yama refers to the five ethical restraints that are meant to guide our behavior. Niyama, on the other hand, refers to the five observances that are meant to cultivate positive qualities within us.
  3. Yama includes non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-excess, and non-possessiveness.  While niyama includes cleanliness, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, and surrender to a higher power.
  4. Yama helps us to control our thoughts, words, and actions, while niyama helps us to purify our minds and bodies.
  5. While both yama and niyama are important, they serve different purposes. Yama is more about how we interact with the world around us, while niyama is more about how we interact with ourselves. A balanced and healthy life requires both.

Comparison Between Yama and Niyama

Parameters of ComparisonYamaNiyama
MeaningEthics in communityPersonal ethics
FoundationRight action principlesRight Practice of observances
NatureControlling our thoughts, words, and actionsHelping us to purify our minds and bodies
PracticesNon-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-excess, and non-possessiveness. Includes cleanliness, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, and surrender to a higher power.