10 Key Life Lessons from The Yamas & Niyamas by Deborah Adele
Find Peace and Fulfillment Even if You Don’t Practice Yoga
Yoga is more than just exercise; it’s a way of living, breathing, concentrating and meditating.
The Yamas and Niyamas are yoga’s ethical foundation. They are a set of five restraints and five observances that teach us how to live a more peaceful and fulfilling life.
The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice¹ includes a chapter on each of these restraints and observances.
Here are 10 key life lessons from the book.
1. Enjoy Things But Not to Excess
Enjoy everything but stop before you get to the point of excess. Everything in life is given to us to enjoy, but we need to stop each activity before we reach the point of excess — that is the point at which it stops being enjoyable.
For example, if you’re hungry, it’s very enjoyable to eat a tasty, healthy meal followed by a dessert. However, if you continue to eat after dessert and reach the point where your stomach hurts or you have indigestion, you’ve passed enjoyment and have reached excess.
2. Avoid Attachment to People or Things
Don’t expect someone or something to give you the same fulfillment the second time or the next time round. This is attachment and leads to discontentment.
Try to accept people as they are and don’t expect them to fulfill your needs. Instead, take responsibility for your own happiness.
3. Let Go Fully
Let go fully so that the next thing can come into your life. According to The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice, you need to be suspended in mid-air like the trapeze artist before grabbing the next bar.
This is difficult. We all crave certainty in our lives and would like to know that a new and better opportunity is definitely on its way before we let go of our current situation.
However, this causes us to cling on to unsatisfying situations because we’re afraid of what might (or might not) happen next.
The universe calls us to trust in its infinite wisdom and its ability to look after us, so we need to take that step into the unknown with courage and trust.
4. Pack Lightly on the Journey of Life and Don’t Be Weighed Down
Pack lightly for the journey of life. Let go of anything unnecessary, including possessions, so that your unwanted items help other people.
The journey of life is towards freedom so don’t let possessions, thoughts, fears and people weigh you down.
5. Develop Your Abilities
Develop your abilities so you’ll be ready for new challenges whenever they arise — at the universe’s right time, not at the time when you want or expect those challenges or opportunities to appear!
6. Rest When You Need to
Know your limitations and don’t push yourself beyond them. Rest when you need to. Don’t feel guilty for resting or not doing something you think you should be doing.
7. Live in the Present Moment
Enjoy each moment as it arises, purely for the moment itself, whatever it brings. Don’t try to control life or force things to happen. Go with the flow.
8. You are Complete Just as You Are
Know you are complete just as you are. You are enough and you have enough at this moment in time.
You don’t need to be anything more than you already are — a beautiful human being who is a unique individual.
9. Everything is Temporary
Periods of difficultly don’t last forever. Relationships may last a long time but it’s inevitable that you’ll be separated by death at some point. Jobs, businesses and vacations are all temporary.
So, make the most of each moment while it’s here. In a moment, it will be gone forever and the opportunity to enjoy it will be gone too.
10. Let Go of the Outcome
Have you ever tried and tried to make something happen but, no matter what you did, it just didn’t happen?
Conversely, has an opportunity ever turned up in your life completely unexpectedly? Did you know instinctively that this was the next step you needed to take?
Sometimes we resist the natural flow of life by trying to do things, control things and make things happen.
Of course, we shouldn’t just sit at home and do nothing. We should take steps in the direction of our dreams. However, we need to let go of the outcome of each of those steps.
If one of those steps comes to nothing, that’s OK. If one of those steps leads to something unexpected but slightly positive, that’s OK. If one of those steps leads to something amazing, that’s OK, too.
It’s very easy — and very human — to want and expect certain outcomes but that is our mind or ego talking.
And our mind or ego doesn’t have the power to make things happen. Life, the universe or whatever’s behind the universe does.
Until we realize this, we’re going to live a life of pain, suffering and frustration. Once we realize the true nature of life and surrender to the forces at work, we’re free.
The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice is one of the best books about how to live your life effectively that I’ve ever read.
Deborah Adele writes in a very easy-to-read, engaging style and includes examples from her own life and the lives of people she knows.
It’s a good book to read if you’d like to live a more fulfilling and peaceful life, even if you don’t practice yoga.
At the end of each chapter, there are four tasks that are designed to help you implement the principles in your own life. I found these very helpful and have written about the effects of one of these tasks in The One Realization that Improved My Life.