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The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice

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The first two limbs of the eight-fold path of yoga sutras—the basic text for classical yoga—are examined in this spiritual guide to the practice of yoga. Foundational to all yogic thought, they are considered to be the guidelines to the yoga way of living that free individuals to take ownership of their lives, direct them toward the fulfillment they seek, and gain the skills to choose attitude, thought, and action. The first five guidelines are referred to as the yamas— a Sanskrit word that translates to "restraints"—and encompass nonviolence, truthfulness, not stealing, nonexcess, and nonpossessiveness. The last five are referred to as the niyamas , or observances—purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, and surrender. A self-study section at the end of each chapter may also be used by instructors for group discussion.

192 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2009

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Deborah Adele

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 372 reviews
Profile Image for Wendy.
Author 2 books4 followers
Currently reading
February 10, 2012
Interesting that others are also writing reviews while reading this book. It's a book that reads like a delicious bit of chocolate. It needs to be read in small bites, preferably at night, just before sleep. It's become my "chocolate on the pillow" every night. Tonight I read a bite about the importance of occasionally carrying your own heavy things (metaphorically and literally) and how you become weaker if you let others do your "heavy lifting" all the time. This rang so true on a day when someone tried to take over my need to "lift" something. It's good to let others know it's not OK to help you sometimes! I look forward to many more evenings of satisfying bites like this to conclude the day.
March 19, 2018
I am not a reader of what many would call "self help" books. And many out there would probably classify this book as just that. But this book is more than that. It is immensely readable and relatable. The author writes with a conversational tone that makes her words all the more powerful. What it does is explore the five yamas and the five niyamas that make up the foundation of yoga's ethical practice. What exactly does that mean? Before I explain, let me back up a bit. Give you all a little background.

Six months ago, the love of my life died from a prescription drug overdose.

And I'm not writing this for sympathy or pity or to make some sort of point about pushing through and overcoming obstacles. Because even six months later I don't feel strong. And I still am overcome with tremendous, almost palpable, waves of grief that I cannot control or escape from. Losing someone you love, someone you wanted to build a future with, suddenly and without any kind of warning is something that I would not wish on my greatest enemy. And in a single moment, the life I had been living switched gears. And I struggled for so long with that loss of control, the completely irrational thoughts that had taken over my life, and those feelings of guilt, grief, and madness that threatened to break me down every day. I never thought that breathing could be such a difficult thing some days. I tried so many things. Exercise, music, booze, meditation. Nothing worked. Even before this tragedy occurred, the practice of yoga was a central practice in my life. I am such a believer in the power of yoga for so many things. Mental health issues, physical health issues, balance, stress, you name it. Yoga was always my center, my breath of fresh air. I felt physically and mentally so much more sound after every session. Until Kyle died. And then, when those fears and feelings took over, I cut yoga out of my life. It was part of my body's reaction to the event. And it was during that first month that I totally melted down. That's when my yoga instructor, mentor, and dear friend gave me this book. And this book got me through that horrible horrible dark place. It brought to light why yoga was and still is such a crucial practice in my life. Why it makes me feel lighter mentally and better physically. Because yoga is so much more than exercise. Much more than the stretches and asanas we practice. Yoga is a state of being. A state of awareness that we are a part of something much bigger than we are. Something we can not always understand. And this book helped me realize that by adjusting my thought processes to a broader view, the less hard I try to figure out what is happening around me. And by not trying so hard, the more I actually understand. And only we have the power to change our circumstances and our attitudes. And sometimes by changing the way we think, we have the powers to dig ourselves of whatever black hole has decided to suck us in.

And so now to the book.
The yamas make up the core of the practice of yoga. They are (for lack of a better term) rules for life. They are standards by which every practitioner of yoga strives for in their journey. They are Ahimsa (nonviolence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (nonstealing), Bhramacharya (nonexcess), and Aparigraha (nonpossessiveness). The niyamas are kind of their counterparts. Instead of being rules of life, they are the rules of living, or the ways in which each of us achieves the five yamas. They are comprised of Saucha (purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (self-discipline), Swadhyaya (self-study), and Ishvarapranidhana (surrender).

Ok, so what the fuck does that mean?

It means that in order to live in complete balance, one must never embody any type of violence, live totally in truth, never take what isn't theirs to take, never have more than what they need, and never be attached to anything outside of the self. And in order to achieve those things, they must cleanse themselves and live a pure life, be content with what they have, engage in self-discipline and self-study, and surrender themselves to the higher powers of the universe.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

And I know that all that above sounds preachy and self-righteous and hipster, but I swear it isn't. This book created an awareness that there are things in this world that I don't understand. And can't control. And the quicker I realize that, the happier and more content I will be. We are only given so much time on this earth, and it is up to us how we use that time that we are given. My instructor who gave the book to me explained that each person who practices yoga usually has a specific yama that speaks more to them than others do. And for her, it is the practice of Ahimsa, or nonviolence. And for me, it is Satya, or truthfulness. And so those are the two I am going to focus on.

Ahimsa and Satya are Sanskrit words. And therefore the English translation isn't exactly what it appears to be.

For those who haven't seen that movie, the Sanskrit word for war actually is translated as "a desire for more cows."

Nonviolence doesn't just refer to abstaining from kicking your brother in the shin, or shooting up a convenience store. It goes a little further than that. It is the practice of never using the self as a vehicle to cause harm to other being, including the self. It is an awareness of our words, actions, and their consequences. It involves an effort never to harm others, but also that you do not cause harm to yourself for the sake of others. It is basically living in harmony with others who share this planet. Obviously this is not at all possible to accomplish all the time or else we would live in fear of stepping outside our houses and accidentally stepping on a flea. However, consciously knowing that things we say or do always have consequences allow us to think before speaking, or refrain from reacting out of anger or hurt or jealousy. Because when we deliberately set out to hurt others, we almost always end up hurting ourselves, either because we've acted out of emotion and hurt people we care about, or because we set off a chain reaction that will always lead back to ourselves. By observing and practicing Ahimsa in our daily lives, it allows us to focus on looking forward and removing anything that may cause us to act out in the first place. It is, in essence, the practice of "letting go." Ridding ourselves of toxic factors before they cause us to hurt or be hurt.

Satya is something that I always try to be conscious of. Again, truthfulness is more than just telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It is the practice of being true to ourselves. Never pretending to be anything more or less than what we are. The author argues that the opposite of Satya is the practice of "being nice." Because usually being nice means telling half-truth to avoid hurting someone's feelings or being fake. Honesty can sometimes be a hard thing to live up to. I know it has caused me to lose friends, but my point is that if you lose friends because of telling the truth, then they were those "toxic factors" I talked about with nonviolence. That actually living in truth helps us also in our quest for nonviolence. When I read this book, especially with the mindset of what I was dealing with, Satya rang the loudest in my head. Because I was hurting. I was sad. I was a total mess. And that is exactly how I was feeling and that is who I was at the time. So when people would ask me how I was and I responded "I'm fine," I was hurting and commiting violence against myself by not telling the truth and pretending to be something other than what I was.

I could spend pages and pages and pages of text talking about all the other yamas and niyamas of yoga. Because they are all important, and I really took something away from all of them. But these two are the ones that hit me the hardest and made me pay attention. I urge everyone to find the wisdom in these words, even if you have to trudge through all my ramblings to get there. It is perfectly ok to not be ok, but for some reason, we humans are conditioned to think that we have to be strong and perfect, and "ok" all the time. Not being ok does not make you weak, it makes you human. And I can share with you all that I am still not "ok." I struggle every day with being human and having emotions and grief and messed up reactions to things. The practice of Satya helps me with my understanding of positive and negative energies and helps me understand some things that are bigger than I am. And staying grounded in who I am, despite not being "ok" is actually what helped me initially climb my way out of the dark hole I fell into. When I stopped pretending to be holding it together, I actually started holding it together for real. And that is something I learned from reading this book. I highly recommend it even for people who don't actually practice yoga or know anything about it (though I highly recommend that you try it). It has influenced the way I feel about the world we live in and the people we share this space with. The powers of the universe, and things that are greater than we are capable of understanding. And though I may never quite understand why things happen the way they do or why horrible things happen to good people, I do understand that everything in life has its purpose, and the more we stop trying to control it and let go, the more we end up taking from it. The journey is what you make of it, even if it veers off course from time to time.

Profile Image for Stacey Jones.
49 reviews3 followers
February 22, 2016
I read this book as an introduction for the yoga certification course I am about to begin, and it demonstrated to me that I was right to embark on this adventure. All during my two years of regular practice, I've wanted to know about the ethics and roots of yoga, and this book addressed the ethical practice in a structured and easy-to-relate to way.

Author Adele divides the book logically by the Yamas (restraints) of nonviolence, truthfulness, nonstealing, nonexcess and nonpossessivness. The Niyamas (observances) include purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study and surrender. Each chapter includes related wisdom and quotes including incidents and anecdotes from the author's own experience to illustrate how these principles can be seen and observed in our daily lives.

The language is accessible, the voice is warm and personable, and the book is not only a pleasant read, but a lovely and ready-reference for these guiding principles of yoga's ethics. I recommend it!
Profile Image for Sally.
56 reviews2 followers
September 27, 2017
This struck me as a self-help book wrapped in yogic trimmings. Not what I was expecting. I was dismayed when I hit the third yama - the author tells a story of a bride leaving her cheating fiance at the alter as a wonderful example of non-stealing. Not only did the bride not adhere to non-stealing (she stole everyone's time by not canceling the wedding outright when she discovered the infidelity), the bride was violent (by causing an upheaval instead of privately confronting her fiance) and non-truthful (by pretending everything was fine up until the middle of the ceremony). Way to go.

So yeah, I had problems with this book.

But I still read it, because it had been recommended. The author managed to hit at least one thing right in each chapter. So I learned something about yamas and niyamas and how they're supposed to work in my life. I'm glad I had had a primer before picking up this book, which helped when she started going off-topic with her examples.
Profile Image for Kevin.
691 reviews11 followers
August 26, 2016
These are the do's and do not's of the yoga world; non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-excess, non-possessiveness (them the yamas), and purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, and surrender (the niyamas).

In general, these are fairly straightforward and easy to comprehend. There might be some discussion on how important they are, or how to apply them, or where people get tripped up and start lying (no, those pants don't make your ass look big), etc.

But the direction the author took them was non-sensical. Some points she made would have fit better into a different yama/niyama. Or, better yet, into a book about something entirely different. Within a paragraph, she would vere off topic so drastically I found myself frequently flipping back to the chapter page to recall which yama we were supposed to be discussing. The degree of esoteric bullshit spewed in here was difficult to follow.

Here's an example:
"Being an audience of the divine mystery begins to shift us out of clock time and into a divine rhythm." It continues to talk more about the divine and god's heartbeat. Which yama is this in? No fucking clue. Let me check. Non-excess, in a section titled Walking With God. Go figure.
Profile Image for Melinda.
178 reviews3 followers
August 17, 2018
This book has a lot of interesting ideas but I find it supremely frustrating that a book about yoga still manages to push Christian ideology.
Profile Image for Autumn (Triquetra Reviews).
375 reviews15 followers
April 23, 2017
Not something that I'm wild about. While I understand where the yamas and niyamas would make a wonderful addition to someone's personal practice, I'm not in love with the author's voice.

There are times of condescension, and as a non-Christian, having the word "God" thrown in there "the way to achieve Surrender is to allow God in" makes me chafe.

The way this material was presented also makes it seem as if people with mental illness are to blame, and follows the "if you think good thoughts, everything will be better." For some people, life is shitty. Things happen, bad things happen. Telling someone that nothing is bad, it's only the way you're thinking of it, is a sure way to get people to disconnect from you.

While your mind is a powerful tool, and while your perspective does matter in all things, telling someone that their car breaking isn't a horrible thing because you "get to have new adventures" is just dripping with privilege.

As a poor person, my car breaking down doesn't allow me to take a few deep breathes, and figure out my new adventure - it's me scrambling to get to work because I need to pay the bills, and I don't want any new adventures to include homelessness.
Profile Image for Dixie.
52 reviews
October 19, 2014
Wonderful book that opens up doors when we open up ourselves. I'm spiritual but not religious and yet this book spoke to me. Things have already changed for the better as I have started to actively live by the Yamas and Niyamas. Life can be difficult at times but it is how we go about it that ultimately defines our life. My favorite quote in the book was "we are not human beings trying to be spiritual; we are spiritual beings trying to be human."
Profile Image for Alex Lee.
904 reviews108 followers
April 20, 2019
Essentially the yamas and niyamas are guides to help us discover our own authenticity. These are ways, techniques, mindset paradigms that quiet ourselves so that we do not let our objective reality sense become identified with one particular feeling, thought, emotion, concept or whatever.

Only after do we find ourselves are we also able to see how we are not, and how that changes how we understand/perceive the world. That loss of objective ground lets us dive into illusions that can then guide us towards creating situations that lead us into misery, strife, or otherwise being attached to what we aren't.

At the most mundane level, this is a book about emotional management. At the most profound level, this is a book about not confusing reality with our emotions, thoughts or other things that we can create. It's not so much that we can create reality, but that a too rigid sense of self can force us to think that our emotions/thoughts/concepts are reality.

The best way, it seems, is to create a contrast within the world, and thus within ourself, so that we can quiet down to what is essential. This requires that we retreat into the world by folding our attention outward and inward, being present is to sit with attention directed into the here-and-now. There is no difference then between self and world, because it is all now.

The physical manifestations of yoga through its contortions are just that, ways to turn towards the act of keeping difficult form. These are ways to essentialize our experience into the present as we follow our practice.

This book is written in a simple and direct way, with a strength that is refreshing. Adele touches on my points of awareness as she picks out examples to illustrate the usefulness of these guides in helping us find ourselves by giving examples of people who lose themselves by diving too deeply into their own understandings and not into the shared reality that is common to anyone not already sharing a reality.
Profile Image for Deb.
143 reviews4 followers
March 22, 2013
So far, this is one of the most accessible books I've found to start exploring the first two "limbs" of Patanjali's Sutras. What I do like is it provides guidelines and structure to explore. This isn't a book that I'll zip through. It'll take time to work through and explore each piece. The chapters on Ahimsa come first, and that's where I seem to stay! (Guess I really need to work on that concept! LOL)

If you're curious and want to explore the philosophical basis of Yoga, and start with Patanjali's Sutras, this is a great resource.
23 reviews5 followers
December 31, 2021
Would NOT recommend this to those looking to study the yamas and niyamas. VERY self-helpy and honestly felt like a waste of time. A very white perspective, treated PoC in othering ways when they were mentioned at all. Every anecdote was perfectly pat and lacked complexity and meaningful analysis. I wouldn't have bothered to read the whole thing but I needed to for a yoga teacher training. If you are considering this book, maybe ask yourself why you're looking to read about Indian spiritual concepts from a white American instead of from people who are from that culture.
Profile Image for Ebony.
Author 7 books156 followers
May 3, 2019
Overall, I liked this book. At moments, it did get intense as I found myself escaping by checking messages mid-sentence. It happened more in the Niyamas than the Yamas. The Yamas (nonviolence, truthfulness, nonstealing, nonexcess, and nonpoesssivenesss) are easier for me to embrace. The Niyamas (purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, and surrender) remind me of the Christian precepts of abstinence, redemptive suffering, and degradation and how they’ve been used to control and punish. In the spirit of staya, as an honest witness I can observe how the evil ills of Christianity are still with me when it comes to those concepts. Those are karmas created in this lifetime and I still struggle with them. It’s not that the Niyama aren’t right or useful, I just cannot embrace them right now. Perhaps at another stage in life, I’ll be more open but not today. That’s the beauty of the book, though. I think I can read it again in 10 years and interpret it differently to meet the needs of who I'll become.

I liked the ease of reading. I like the practice tips. I liked the quotes and the stories although by the end I was kinda over her grandkids. All the examples are very white. There are black people who have quotes about this topic; maybe she mentions two. In all fairness, inclusion is not her project, but it would be nice to read interpretations of spiritual concepts that reflect the world’s thinkers and not just the West and Ghandi as a token. I personally want to read books like this written for mainstream audiences with an Afrocentric perspective. And no, I’m not going to write one. There are already plenty they just aren’t household names and they don’t get assigned for yoga teacher trainings. We let white people in the United States tell the stories of yoga. That’s another issue, not the point of the book or its review. To sum, the book is practical, useful, and easy to read. If you're new to the philosophy of yoga, it's a great place to start.
Profile Image for Elaine.
69 reviews4 followers
July 30, 2021
This book is a little infuriating. As another reviewer mentioned, there is at least one nugget of wisdom in each chapter. Those nuggets are surrounded by a contradictory mix of the author's perceived* shortcomings. She makes herself out to be a completely self-absorbed tyrant... and projects that onto the reader with sweeping generalizations about how awful "we" all are as human beings. Sometimes they're not even sweeping or generalizations, they're super specific. Apparently everyone is completely invested in controlling other people's lives (nonviolence chapter), miserable because of technology (contentment chapter), and missing out on the "realness" of life by living somewhere in the Midwest and not militia-ravaged El Salvador (truthfulness chapter).

*and sometimes unperceived... she took a yogi's fart joke as a commentary on how to live one's life in the purity chapter

She also spends a lot of time repackaging these yoga ethics and ideals, originating in India, inside the disturbing framework of Western Christianity, which I just can't believe is how they're supposed to be interpreted. She promotes so many harmful assumptions. "Be a forklift; you should always be lifting people up" (nonstealing chapter): Toxic positivity. "From the moment we are born, we are in debt" (nonstealing chapter): This sounds an awful lot like the doctrine of original sin. The nonexcess chapter has a very negative view of human sexuality, and goes off on a bunch of tangents about the wondrous mystery of god, I felt like I was back in Sunday school. The purity chapter talks a lot about toxins, confession, and forgiveness. It even has a section about the Lord's Prayer! The contentment chapter mostly decries emotion (both positive and negative), including reframing what was obviously a traumatic childhood dinner experience as her own fault by virtue of having been traumatized by it.

In the nonpossessiveness chapter, she appears not to understand the law of diminishing returns, and most of her examples seem more appropriate for small children than grown adults.

So, why am I reading this book anyway? First, my therapist recommended it, so I'm really trying to give it a chance (or perhaps I'm just too stubborn to NOT read it). Also, some of those aforementioned nuggets of wisdom have been helpful for me personally.

Some examples to counter all the negative junk at the top of this review:

The first two chapters are about nonviolence and truthfulness. She does an excellent job imparting how either one without the other doesn't work. Hurtful truths can be as bad as denial and inaction. The section on worrying about others was fascinating to me. Even though I think it's unwise to vilify any given emotion, worry included, when she classified it as "violence" (not trusting someone to make their own decisions), it gave a lot of perspective to how infuriating my mother's constant worrying about me is, and simultaneously gave me permission to stop worrying so much myself (learned behaviors...).

Nonviolence also covers self-compassion, so this chapter started to help me understand how much violence I levy on myself. Likewise, the nonstealing chapter had some insights on ways we "steal" from ourselves. It places building competency as the opposite action to nonstealing (even though a few of her examples are pretty questionable). The contentment chapter places gratitude as its keystone.

I still have a few niyamas to go before I've finished this book, but I don't expect much different and I really had to get this review off my chest. So there you have it.

I guess I would recommend this book to nondenominational Christians who enjoy yoga.
Profile Image for Farnoosh Brock.
Author 17 books218 followers
May 25, 2018
My teacher recommended this beautiful book to me, and it is the most enlightening book on these yoga tenents AND on life and living, on joy and happiness, on us getting in our own way and how to get out of the way, and it's written in a most easy-to-read and yet eloquent, poetic and memorable way. I was not familiar with Deborah Adele before and yet I felt she was speaking directly to me on some of the poignant points she made about the living true to ourselves. She has a way of weaving in her own personal family stories into these tenets but just enough; she doesn't elaborate on them a second more than need be and yet she makes her points even more clear, more personal, as she relates to you.

I recommend getting a physical copy. The book has beautiful font and extracts that are pulled out to give you the quick highlights if you were to skim through it afterwards. I have attached some photos here.

This book makes you want to learn the yamas and niyamas, apply them, contemplate them, and talk about them. I've been talking to my husband about them and he's a non-yogi but he can appreciate them. You start with what Adele terms as the "first five jewels", the Yamas, or restraints, which are non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-excess, and non-possessiveness. Then you move on to the Niyamas, naturally, the "last five jewels", which are purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, and surrender. She also has a section at the end of each jewel, called "Questions for Exploration", in which she sets up your month to exercise that jewel by doing certain things toward it every week, and she outlines the four weeks of the month for you as such with guidelines and examples.

A fantastic book, a dear companion to reference when you feel confused or lost or just unhappy. It is a grounding book for the mind, as yoga - the asana in particular - are a grounding work for the body. Read it, cherish it, reference it often.

And a quote that left me almost in tears: "Only when we find this love for all parts of ourselves, can we begin to express fully the love that wells up inside of us for others." :)
Profile Image for ro.
66 reviews
March 4, 2022
“We cannot love or hate something about another person or the world unless it is already inside us first, both our pettiness & magnificence”,

This was one of those books where I couldn’t stop myself from highlighting passages with every page lol, beautifully written I enjoyed it from start to finish, highly recommend.

It’s also something you read over time to absorb it all in, think and reflect (she includes reflection questions at the end of each chapter) but I couldn’t help myself
Profile Image for ariadna.
70 reviews3 followers
April 7, 2023
I can't say I learned anything new, but it did serve as a reminder of all the things yoga has taught me and how I can implement them in my daily life.
Profile Image for Nicki Escudero.
112 reviews4 followers
July 29, 2020
You don't have to be a yogi to enjoy this book. It explains 10 yoga tenets that are principles you'd do will living by, including truthfulness, non-greed and purity.

The book is very relatable, with author Deborah Adele weaving many personal stories into these yoga guidelines. She explains how to easily integrate the Yamas and Niyamas into your everyday life and provides examples of ways to put them into practice.

I liked Adele's friendly narratives, encouraging words and easy-to-understand explanations. I'll definitely be re-reading this many times in the future, because the insights are such great reminders for how to live a meaningful and positive life.
Profile Image for Linda.
236 reviews86 followers
May 8, 2021
When I first started doing yoga, I was only interested in the physical practice, and what hooked me was the surprising amount of progress I was able to make, even with my out-of-shape, perennially non-flexible body. The longer I continued doing yoga, the more my physical practice started to grow, from a once-a-week small beginner's class organized at work by a colleague, to a semi-regular at-home practice. Over time, I also began to understand the true physical gains I was making — not to turn into a bendy acrobat, but rather to build a deeper body awareness, a better sense of my physical self in physical space, and more physical mobility, resilience, and balance, that changed only in increments and yet was profound.

I never paid much attention to the mental and spiritual side of yoga, until I started reading a few books to help me with my physical practice, one of which (Perfectly Imperfect: The Art and Soul of Yoga Practice) was transformational for me in understanding the benefits my physical practice was already giving me "off the mat". Since then I've tried to do a bit more reading and learning about the non-physical aspects of yoga, but unfortunately, what I've read so far has been underwhelming at best, with a lot of preachiness and a fair amount of insubstantial spiritual-ish fluff.

But I keep trying, and I'm very pleased to discover that Deborah Adele's The Yamas and Niyamas is a substantive, thought-provoking, and rewarding exploration that I am certain I will go back to again and again. She goes carefully and systematically through each of the 5 yamas and 5 niyamas, the core "restraints" and "observances" that make up the first two "limbs" of the traditional eight limbs of yoga. Chapter by chapter, Adele does not simply define each of the yamas and niyamas, but breaks them down into separate elements that contribute to their fulfillment, taking her time with each element. At the end of each chapter she offers a weekly task list as a month of guidance to exploring and developing one's own comprehension and acceptance of the principles. Ultimately, and most appealing to me, the core of this book is not simply about striving toward some inner, personal spiritual understanding, but rather about how to live in the world according to ethical principles that yoga embraces.

As a book it's not a difficult read, though the depth and introspection of the subject matter may prompt a good amount of pausing, reflecting, and re-reading. The authorial voice sometimes feels a bit stuffy and old-fashioned, recalling a schoolmarm or librarian of an earlier age, so it's sometimes jarring to come across references to the real, modern world in some of Adele's personal anecdotes. But this is just an observation, not really a complaint, and it didn't get in the way of my appreciation for the book at all. In the end, the content is excellent, which is what matters. I highlighted many passages on my first go-through; now just referring back to it for this review, I've already found myself highlighting still more. For now I plan to keep this nearby as a reference, taking a moment from time to time to visit chapters more slowly and contemplatively, as I continue to wander down the path of yoga.
Profile Image for Christine.
192 reviews16 followers
March 13, 2016
This book takes an in depth look at the first two limbs of the 8 limbed path of yoga, which come from the Yoga Sutras and comprise yoga's ten ethical guidelines. The first limb, the Yamas, or restaraints, are comprised of nonviolence, truthfulness, nonstealing, nonexcess and nonpossessiveness. The second limb, the Niyamas, or observances, are purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study and surrender. This book does a superb job of looking at each ethical tenet in an extremely in depth but also very accessible way, and concludes each chapter with four questions for further exploration to help the reader personally strengthen their understanding of, and their growth in, each area. Written by a woman who has master's degrees in both Liberal Studies and Theology, and who currently runs her own yoga center in Minnesota, the style of writing is very down to earth and relatable. The author uses examples and inspiring quotations from all manner of sources- personal, literary, religious, historical, etc.- to help elucidate her points. I personally could not imagine a better presentation of this material; and after having read, highlighted, and underlined the flippin' crap out of this book, I am definitely looking forward to using it as a reference/manual for my continued examination and (hopefully :0) increased refinement of these yogic concepts.

"Ultimately we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace within ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world." -ETTY HILLESUM

"Love is what is left when you've let go of all the things you love." -SWAMI JNANESHVARA
Profile Image for Jiajing.
13 reviews1 follower
January 10, 2019
Friends and teachers in my yoga teacher training programs recommended this book to me. At first I was quite interested in eight limbs and the philosophy in ancient yoga. This book is a nice supplementary resource after reading . The author has good arguments and offers a variety of explanation of each element in Yamas and Niyama. Also, I really appreciate the practices the author offers at the end of each chapter. For "serious" yoga practitioners, it is definitely worth to try.

But in the end this is self-help type of book. The author only offers good arguments but not good examples. The core concepts of this book can be compressed in several pages. How many readers want a book talking about the author realizes the truth of self-love in a hot bubble bath, or labels a common experience such as meeting grandchildren as obtaining Saucha? Well there is nothing wrong exploring the philosophy in daily life, and it should be what yoga practitioners do every day. It just makes feel awkward when reading the farfetched insights.
I assume this book would be beneficial to read a bit every day or when I got frustrated.
Profile Image for Marjorie Elwood.
1,110 reviews23 followers
September 10, 2016
A year ago, a part of my life fell to pieces. On a hike up to an Appalachian Mountain Club hut, I met a man and we talked about life and spirituality. He had just started this book. After a day spent chatting, he gave me the book, telling me that he thought he had bought it for a reason, and that reason was that I needed it. He was right.

Deborah Adele explains each restraint (yama) and observance (niyama) in a manner that exhibits clarity, an understanding of the distractions of life, and rings true. For instance, when discussing Satya, or Truthfulness, she says: "I also lie to myself when I set lofty goals that are more wishful thinking than anything the reality of my days can incorporate."

A small work of art to refer to over-and-over again.
Profile Image for Janani Iyer.
35 reviews3 followers
April 4, 2012
Liked the book so much that I bought a personal copy, to remind myself everyday of the Principles.

I would highly recommend the book to all. Wish more people followed the principles in this book rather that the 48 laws to power.
There is more power in this book.
One of the best practical translation of Patanjali YOga sutras.
Profile Image for Bonnie.
110 reviews1 follower
July 30, 2012
I am taking my first yoga class and we are reading this. I would recommend this to anyone interested in yoga.
Profile Image for Verena.
50 reviews
May 4, 2014
Good concepts presented bible-study style. I was expecting a more objective, historical approach instead of a narration of personal experiences and applications derived from such.
Profile Image for Debbie.
Author 5 books7 followers
November 23, 2017
Absolute jewel of a book! One that I shall be happily revisiting as I try to apply some of the practices into my own life! Brilliant😊
Profile Image for Karina.
37 reviews1 follower
February 27, 2018
Very insightful book, easy to read an practical principles to live a more fulfilling life.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
121 reviews
February 15, 2021
This was my first required reading book for my 200 hour yoga teacher training and I loved it. Really great book on yoga philosophy and also life in general. Really easy to read but I definitely took my time with this one because after each Yama and Niyama I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on it, and sat with the questions for exploration at the end. This is a book that I think I will come back to often, reading different sections when I feel myself struggling in different aspects of my life. I would recommend this book to absolutely everyone.
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