Yoga Stretching For The Mind Not Body: Yamas and Niyamas

Feeling stressed, indecisive, self doubting? You might want to practice some Yamas and Niyamas – which are yoga’s mindfulness practices to calm your mind.

Best of all, you don’t need to put on yoga clothes or break a sweat to practice Yamas and Niyamas. Read on…

There are many days I feel like my mind is buzzing with lots of static. I feel overwhelmed, anxious, and low on energy and self love.

My solution?

I turn to yoga’s mindfulness practices – the Yamas and Niyamas.

Best of all, I don’t have to go to a yoga class for these mindfulness practices.

I can do them at my desk – without changing into yoga clothes – and while keeping my high heels on.

When I tell people about my “desk side yoga practice” – they are surprised.

A Mindfulness Practice to Calm Your Mind: Yoga's Yamas and NiyamasA lot of people hear the word “yoga” – and they automatically think it’s only about lots of stretching into Gumby poses (aka doing asanas).

While stretching the body is a big part of a yoga practice, so is stretching who you are as a person.

In fact, according to  Patanjali,  author of the Yoga Sutras, stretching your soul, is job number one!


One of yoga’s key missions:

Gently guide you from mind-over-fulness to mindfulness.

Yoga Mindfulness Practices to Calm Your Mind: Yamas and Niyamas

Yes, yoga’s main mission is not to work out your body and give you buns of steel.

Yoga’s main mission is to serve as a mindfulness practice – with the goal of nudging you back into touch with that unique, beautiful soul residing inside of you –  a soul which is here on this planet to grow into its best and truest state of being.

By the way… if you’re interested in learning more about yoga…there are many places where you can find yoga teacher training. Online programs offer a convenient and affordable way to learn the basics of yoga teaching. 

Still, in-person yoga teacher training programs offer a more immersive and personal learning experience. Some retreats provide yoga teacher training programs, which can be a good option if you want to combine your yoga teacher training with a relaxing and enjoyable vacation.

But I digress…. In this article I want to talk about the non-physical-stretchy yoga – the area of yoga dedicated solely – and soully – to simply doing “soul stretches.”

This yoga mindfulness area is called the “10 Yamas and Niyamas.”

When I first learned about these 10 Yamas and Niyamas – in my ISHTA Yoga Teacher Training – I thought about how they reminded me of that famous book “The 4 Agreements.”

Mindfulness Practices to Calm Your Mind: Yoga's Yamas and Niyamas

Karen Salmansohn, author “Instant Calm”

Chances are you’ve heard of the awesome book “The 4 Agreements” by Don Miguel Ángel Ruiz.

I personally have a doggie earred copy of “The 4 Agreements” – which I re-re-re-read all the time.

Well, similarly to that book, these 10 Yamas and Niyamas represent the 5 do’s and 5 do not’s for living your happiest, highest potential life.

You’re supposed to regularly enter into a meditative state – and think about these 10 Yamas and Niyamas.

Similarly to The 4 Agreements, these 10 Yamas and Niyamas help you to mindfully contemplate which areas of your life you need to improve.

Here’s how I use them…

  • First I do a little meditation – to shush my busy chattering monkey mind – which is often at gorilla chattering level
  • I make sure I wear comfortable clothes, so I feel relaxed and centered on my thoughts.
  • When my mind feels calm, I contemplate the Yamas and Niyamas. I figure out which of these 10 I need to focus on – to help me to solve whatever conflicts or challenges I’m facing.

If you don’t know how to enter into a meditative state of mind, no worries.

==> Here’s some meditation techniques I personally use – which I turned into a helpful meditation guide book. <==

But first… here is a simple explanation of  the 10 Yamas and Niyamas.

The 5 Yamas are your “To Don’t List”:

When you avoid these 5 actions below, you help to deprogram how you’ve become accidentally programmed with limiting beliefs and habits.

Yoga Mindfulness Practices to Calm Your Mind: Yamas and Niyamas1. ahimsa: non-injury.

When you don’t injure (others or yourself),  you reach peace of mind.

Observe the physical sensations in your body and the thoughts and emotions that arise when you’re angry or frustrated. Without judgment, simply observe these sensations and thoughts. Once you have calmed down, you can choose how to respond in a way that’s respectful and compassionate.

2. satya: non-lying.

When you don’t lie (to others or yourself) you don’t confuse your mind, so you attain a clearer mind.

This means being honest with yourself and others, even when difficult. You can also live in alignment with your values and beliefs with this.

3. asteya: non-stealing.

When you don’t steal, you lessen your need  and addiction for things.

It’s important to practice non-stealing in both the literal and figurative sense by being mindful of your thoughts and actions. That way, you’re less likely to desire things that don’t belong to you.

4. brahmacharya: non-excess.

When you don’t waste your “vital energy” on an excess of things, thoughts, and habits which are not helpful to your well being,  you can focus your energy on what matters most  – and move your energy to where it needs to go most.

5. aparigraha: non-hoarding.

Practice non-attachment to material possessions, people, and experiences. That means letting go of things you don’t need or are no longer serving you. When you stop feeling lack, living with an abundance mentality comes more easily.

Also, whenever you have possessions,  this means you’re responsible for taking care of them. As a result, the more stuff you have, the less free you are. When you don’t hoard, you become freer.

The 5 Nyamas are your “To Do List”:

The Niyamas represent 5 things that you should TRY to do.

When you practice these 5 actions below, you help to reprogram yourself – so that you can let go of limiting thoughts – all that static-filled vritti –  the fluctuations in your mind.

1. saucha: cleanliness. 

When you’re clean, you’re healthy in body and pure in mind.

So, take care of your physical body by eating nutritious foods and protect your mental health by practicing mindfulness, meditation, and yoga. Also, care for the environment by recycling, composting, and reducing waste.

2. santosha: contentment.

When you feel content with all you have/don’t have, you feel content with your karma and dharma (the circumstances you’re born into and face in your life – your one-of-kind “welcome to this planet puzzle of a gift” you’re meant to learn from and grow with!). When you’re content, you’re better able to focus on what you need to learn from your life experiences and stay open to new possibilities and new insights.

3. tapas: discipline.

When you are better able to master your mind – you’re better able to master your body, your energies, your thoughts, your challenges – thereby better able to master your karma, dharma and destiny.

So set goals and work towards them, even when it’s difficult. Also, be mindful of your thoughts and actions, and choose to do the things aligned with your values.

4. svadhyaya: self-study.

When you start studying who you are on a unique soul level, you’re able to find out what it is you need to do – and what you need to give up – so that you can practice in a way that leads to evolving into your highest self.

ISHTA’s name actually comes from a great Sutra about this –  Sutra 2.44 – which says: “Svadhyaya ishta devata sampra yogaha.”  

Meaning?Through self-study you will find what you personally need.”

5. ishvara pranidhana:  letting go

This one is about letting go and connecting with the wisdom of the universe- and all which governs our universe!

Yoga Mindfulness Practices to Calm Your Mind: Yamas and Niyamas

Sri Swami Satchidananda,  a Yoga Sutras translator,  says that if you’re able to master this one, you’ll be able to attain “Samadhi” – the state of oneness – aka bliss – which is the final limb of yoga.

Ishvara pranidhana  is all about looking outside of yourself – surrendering to something bigger than yourself.

You know that expression: “Let go and let God”? That’s Ishvara pranidhana ! However, it doesn’t matter what you call it  (God,  Mother Nature,  Universal Energies, Spirit, Love Energies ) – it just matters that you call upon it- and let go of your need to control all that happens – and trust a greater plan is at work.

Okay… so those are all 10 of the Yamas and Niyamas.

Here’s how to use Yamas and Niyamas as a mindfulness practice.

  • Next time you’re feeling stressed,  turn to these 10 Yamas and Niyamas for guidance (Bookmark this article on your computer – so you can find this list quickly.)
  • Enter into a meditative state by becoming aware of your breath. If you need help with entering into a meditative state, try one of the many sensory meditations in my book, Instant Calm.
  • Read through these 10 Yamas and Niyamas – then select 1 to 3 of them – the ones which resonate most to you.
  • Think about how you can better work on these 1 – 3 areas – how you can “soul stretch” who you are as a person by improving any habits related to these 1 – 3 Yamas and Niyamas.
  • Don’t wait for stress to strike. Mindfully contemplate these Yamas and Yamas on a regular basis – as an essential part of a well-rounded yoga practice –  to ensure you are living your happiest, highest potential life.
  • And if you feel open to exploring more yoga, you can always choose the best yoga online to do!

The Yamas and Niyamas aren’t always easy to practice, but they are worth the effort. They’re essential to cultivating a more ethical and mindful life. Also, they help create the foundation for a more peaceful and joyful existence.

Get more in touch with your highest self.

Create a regular meditation practice, with my book Instant Calm.

Think happier. Think calmer.

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