Codes of ethics and conduct are common in professions and they are also fundamental to most faiths and cultures. Humans it seems have always required the instruction of ethical guidelines. No surprise then that the first codification of yoga, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali place a priority on practising an ethical lifestyle.
When he comes to outline practices that will lead one toward the state of yoga, or of wholeness Patanjali begins with good living, in outward practice, the Yamas and in inward practices, the Niyamas. He gives five of each. Similar lists occur elsewhere in the spiritual wisdom literature of India including the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. The number of yamas and niyamas varies between these texts, including in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika in which there are ten yamas and ten niyamas.
Yamas are restraints, the don’ts of a spiritual life. Patanjali gives us five, which match the five vows of Jainism. Other sources list ten or more, and include elements of Patanjali’s niyamas. (see the Wikipedia article on Yamas for more information).
Svaatmaaraama’s Hatha Yoga Pradipika does not include Aparigraha and adds:
Niyamas are the outward practices, positive behaviours and disciplines. Patanjali has five.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika has ten which include two of those in the Yoga Sutras (one appears in the HYP’s Yamas) and they are as follows:
Find more in the Wikipedia article on niyamas.
Sadhana – your practice
Each night as you go to sleep reflect on the yamas and niyamas of Patanjali and how you have lived them in the day just past. As you remember those actions that are in accord with the yamas and niyamas, notice the feeling you have in your body. You might identify this feeling with a deep sense of harmony.
Reflect also on where you failed to live them and sense how that feels in the body. Does if feel disharmonious? Reconstruct that event in a way that you would have lived the yamas and niyamas. If this were the action you had taken, pretending for a moment that it is true, and as you take it to be true, what is its feeling in the body?
Trust the feeling of harmony to guide you in life.