10 Yogic Guidelines that Greatly Improve my Meditation

And how you can harness the power of good conduct for your own practice.

Dharmendra Laur
Know Thyself, Heal Thyself
11 min readOct 4, 2021


Photo by worrayuth; licensed from Adobe Stock

When I first got acquainted with morality in school years back, I found the subject interesting for sure. Still, it also left me puzzled: are good and bad entirely subjective matters — mere personal preferences? Is there a clear-cut way to determine what is good behavior and what is not? The sheer number of conflicting but highly regarded opinions on morality strongly suggested to me that this was indeed the case.

Fast forward a couple of years, I found myself within the last swaths of earning my now quite useless bachelor’s degree in physics. Around that time — roughly five years ago — I first came across an ancient system of ten moral principles called Yama & Niyama. Back then, I was somewhat dissatisfied with the answers physics provided and with academia in general. I was searching for answers which in-between measurements and mathematical formulas I could not find.

Coming from a scientific and materialistic background, terms like soul or spirituality were not exactly my cup of tea. Still, the amount of evidence around meditation and its effectiveness made me curious. In a snap decision, I decided to go and live with yogic monks for at least one year, to follow their tight routine and intense practices as good I could.

Now, about five years later, I’m still doing exactly that. To sum up, the life we live within one sentence: We meditate many hours a day and structure our lives in a most congenial way for spiritual progress. Over the years, I found that the single most significant influence on the quality of my meditation comes from keeping my mind light and free from ballast.

This is where Yama & Niyama, the ancient system of ten moral principles, comes in. Following it bestows me with a clear conscience and a worry-free mind that makes it comparatively easy to concentrate when sitting down and doing meditation.

I find this aspect of meditation gets relatively overlooked. Most people seem to think of meditation to improve their “usual” or “normal” life — their life outside of meditation. From my experience, I can tell that the other way round is at least equally important. How I live dramatically affects how much benefit I can draw from my meditation, and to me, that is quite logical.

When shifting my focus inward during meditation, my mind naturally confronts me with the various thoughts, emotions, memories, etc., that are present within my mind at that time. Would I start my day by leaving a mess in the kitchen and continue it by lying to my boss about the progress of my work, only to play a false game to my spouse then while simultaneously browsing a dating app, my mind would become very uneasy. I would have to face a ferocious cocktail of bad emotions like shame, fear, or doubt once I sit down to meditate.

My meditation would turn into an unpleasant and seemingly unrewarding experience. This is one of the main reasons I can hardly think of a person who consistently behaves in a depraved way and keeps up a steady meditation practice simultaneously. While some people like that might be around, for most people, it seems similar like it is to me. The inner peace and happiness I want from meditation just don’t manifest for the morally corrupt. Or at least it’s much more challenging for them.

My meditation becomes much more fruitful and satisfying by adjusting my conduct along the lines of morality. I’m by no means perfect in that, but just putting the effort in to do it as best as I can is already enough.

Let’s see what this system of moral principles looks like and how I integrate it within my life in a systematic way.

Yama & Niyama

Things might now become a bit dry and technical. Stay with me!

This section contains a brief introduction to the ten principles of Yama & Niyama. I’ll go with their Sanskrit terms: Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya, Aparigraha, Shaoca, Santosha, Tapah, Svadyaya, and Iishvara Pranidhana.

Ahimsa means not to harm any creature by thought, word, or deed intentionally. It does not object to self-defense.

I find Ahimsa to be relatively straightforward to apply most of the time. Sure, there are some edge cases. How to tread mosquitos is one of them. On the one hand, they are the aggressors and quite annoying ones that are. On the other, although they don’t do much harm (at least where I live). After all, they’re only following their instinct.

For now, I’m not hesitating to end their life while they’re biting me. If I find one just sitting on the wall peacefully during the daytime, I usually catch it with a glass and release it in the garden.

Satya means benevolent truthfulness, whereby benevolence is of higher importance than truthfulness.

In practice, that would mean that if a woman knocks at my door and tells me a violent man is threatening her, I would let her come in so she can hide. When, a few minutes later, an angry-looking man knocks and asks whether I’ve seen a young woman passing by, my answer would undoubtedly be “no.” This would not align with the factual truth (termed “Rta” in Sanskrit), but it will align with Satya, which is more important.

Asteya means not to claim anything which does not rightfully belong to oneself.

I know this from my childhood. Sometimes my sister would clean the kitchen while my mother was at work. When my mother would return in the afternoon and find the clean kitchen, she would come to me and thank me happily for my work. Depending on whether my sister was around or not, I would keep conspicuously mum. If I could go back in time, I would handle things differently now. For sure!

Brahmacarya is a practice of auto-suggestion. The idea is always to ideate that everything around me ultimately is an expression of infinite joy. Keeping that thought active daily helps me stay connected to the mental states that I cultivate during meditation.

Aparigraha means to adjust to the minimum necessities of life. It aligns well with the modern-day minimalism movement. I find honestly asking myself questions like “What for do I need this thing? Do I need it?” and put their answers into action is a good approach for applying Aparigraha.

The above five principles are known as Yama. They are mainly about how to tread the external world to maintain a balanced mind free from worries.

The next set of five principles is called Niyama.

They focus on how to tread the inner, mental world.

Shaoca means purity or cleanliness.

Keeping the body clean by being vigilant about hygiene and food helps me significantly reduce the trouble that comes from my body.

Furthermore, there is mental cleanliness. I take great care to control the information I allow into my mind. If there is no practical value in confronting myself with negative things, I just try to leave them aside.

Mental cleanliness is also about how we think about ourselves. Are we harsh or even mean to ourselves or more forgiving and well-meaning? If I make some mistake or fail to accomplish something, thinking “I am stupid” or “I am not good enough” will only lead to more suffering. Instead, I try to think something like, “I did my best, but it didn’t go well. What can I learn from it?”

Santosha means to be content with things received, which were unasked for.
Actively embracing everything life throws at me makes me enjoy all the good things much more. It also helps me to stay solution-oriented when something terrible strikes. That way, I can turn bad things into opportunities for self-growth.

Tapah means undergoing hardship for a noble cause, but not blindly.

For students, learning is the main Tapah. I found that most of the time, Tapah implies some sort of effort. Sacrificing some leisure time to help a friend is another example of Tapah. It makes me tackle difficult challenges and leaves my mind with the soothing feeling of having accomplished something. Potentially I can even enjoy the thought of really having helped somebody.

Svadyaya means to study scriptures and philosophical books and to understand them.

The idea is to constantly feed the mind with elevating concepts and ideas, especially ones that further self-knowledge. Doing this regularly helps me to retain some mental subtlety amidst the onslaught of daily mundanities.
Iishvara Pranidhana means to believe in the power of consciousness firmly.
As I grow older, life, again and again, makes me painfully aware of how little I can control. Things happen all the time, and I have no power to change that, but that doesn’t bother me. I know that there is a force that I can rely on, no matter what.

The same force that ensures that I continue to breathe while I’m asleep — even though my sense of self, and with it the illusion of control or doership, is suspended during that time — is guiding and assisting me in every moment and within every atom of my being.

I can not fully comprehend that force, but I know it is there and that it is there to help me. I fully trust in that force, no matter what pleasures or pains life has in store for me. I call that mysterious force the supreme consciousness.

It is the soul of my soul, the heart of my heart, the goal behind all my goals.

Making morality a habit

A little effort is needed, but consistency is key!

Let’s get practical. The way I put the above theory into practice looks as follows:

Every day, at the beginning of my evening routine, I’ll open up a spreadsheet on my computer or phone, containing ten rows and 31 columns. The rows contain the principles, and the columns represent the days of a given month. The cells have unticked checkboxes. Every month I will start with creating a fresh, empty spreadsheet, as shown below.

My daily review template

For convenience, I keep an empty template together with all the past spreadsheets in a cloud folder that I can access from all my devices. To find them easily, by using the search function, I’ll name them after the month and year, for example, “September 2021” or “May 2019”. Printing it out also works. I did that for a while, but ultimately the digital version comes in more handy for me.

The process

When sitting down to do my self-analysis, I first take a little time to focus.

Maybe I’ll take a deep breath or two before I start going through the column for the specific day, principle after principle. For each principle, I ask myself: did I violate it? In that case, I will not place a tick. On the contrary, if I adhered to the specific principle, I’ll put a tick.

It’s that simple.

The idea is for the tick to signify whether I adhered to a principle or not. I know the meaning of all principles by heart, so for me, the whole process may take two minutes on average. In the beginning, you can use a piece of paper or a digital note containing the exact meaning of each principle, or you can refer back to this article. The whole process doesn’t need to take longer than ten minutes each day.

It is not about doing a deep analysis of every action I undertook that day and rating it. Just asking myself, “Did I observe Satya (benevolent truthfulness) today?” will immediately bring one or two memories to my mind, which are straightforward to judge in most cases. Occasionally, more complex questions do appear. I find thinking them through is quite insightful and well worth the extra effort.

In this way, I reflect on my behavior through the lens of morality every day. It helps me identify my strengths and weaknesses and grow the former while weeding out the latter.

I encourage you to give it a serious try. Following these moral principles boosts my meditation and increases my quality of life, makes me a more helpful member of society, and ultimately a better human being.

About the clarity of morality

Is there a clear answer to what is good and what is bad?

Having experienced the effects of following a working moral system, I’m no longer puzzled whether the question of good or bad only comes down to subjectivity.

It doesn’t.

I look at morality as a compass that helps me behave in a way that keeps my mind undisturbed by causing minimum suffering and maximum joy for myself and my environment.

Through that view, morality becomes a sole matter of cause and effect. This, in turn, is nothing but the scientific method in a nutshell. My younger self would surely be quite reluctant to accept it, but for my present self, it has become quite clear:

Morality is a science.

If we know the effects we want to achieve, we only have to identify the causes, bringing the desired results. But is this realistic? Every human being is unique, after all. Within each individual might be different cause and effect relationships at play.

That is true. What is also true is that we all share many similarities. There are more things that unite us than those which separate us. You and I share no less than 99.9% of the same DNA. Our bodies have similar needs, and the same is true for our minds. We all need shelter, food, clothing, medicine, and education. We all share a common blueprint, a common template from which all the diversities arise.

Yes, we are both unique. Yet, we are sufficiently similar for a set of principles to exist that improves your well-being as well as mine when followed. To me, it’s similar to how plant seeds of a given variety all need an equal amount of water, earth, light, and so forth, to sprout. And yet, each plant that grows out of those seeds will differ from its siblings.

As humans, we all belong to the same species or class of living beings. It seems pretty logical that a set of behavioral guidelines does exist, which has a positive effect on everyone who follows it.

But isn’t that dogmatic?

I don’t think so. Yama & Niyama do not tell me exactly how to behave in any given situation. It guides me on how to judge myself as to what I should or should not do.

It provides me with a measurement stick. How I carry out the measurement is entirely my affair. Dogmas confine the mind into ways of thinking that can not be questioned. Yama & Niyama, on the contrary, challenges me to constantly evaluate the reality around me and thus keeps my mind moving. For me, the dynamicity which Yama & Niyama brings has nothing to with the staticity inherent in dogmas.

Applying morality is not easy, but a lot of theoretical groundwork has already been done by fellow soul seekers of the past. Paving the way is a much more tedious task than following the footsteps of the sages that came before us.

At least that much my past self would have to concede. So I’m in the fortunate position to end this post in peace with myself.

May the same be true for you.



Dharmendra Laur
Know Thyself, Heal Thyself

Yogi, activist, blogger, scientist. Living to find out if enlightenment/salvation is real | Seeking freedom for everyone | #Bitcoin & #Kaspa enthusiast