As we all try to find new ways to navigate through life — feeling as if we’re being pushed and pulled in all directions at once by events that are out of our control, I wanted to share something that has helped me and my students quiet our minds and feel more hope as we look beyond our immediate problems.

Today’s blog is about the Yamas and Niyamas, which as many of you already know, are yoga’s ten ethical guidelines that are foundational to all yogic thought.  

They comprise the first two limbs of Yoga’s eight-fold path and provide us with a simple guidance to help us understand ourselves and others more deeply, which in turn can enable us to give and receive more kindness, acceptance, joy, love and possibilities – even in these challenging times.

One of the best books on The Yamas and Niyamas is written by Deborah Adele. This was given to me by a friend at a yoga teacher training and I cherish and study it often. In this book Deborah explores yoga’s ethical practices and how to apply them to live more wholeheartedly. I use it as a guidebook on how to integrate my body, mind and heart by embracing a yogic lifestyle.

I have been teaching on the 5 Yamas of nonviolence, truthfulness, nonstealing, nonexcess and nonpossessiveness the last 5 weeks in my classes along with all the teachers at the center.  I encourage you to get a copy at the library or on Amazon so you too can deepen your yoga experience and learn about the Yamas. The author includes weekly practices to become more aware of their positive impact in your life.

If you’d like to virtually connect with me and other students in community, you can join me in spirit (and perhaps online conversations on Facebook) as I continue to blog about this important text each week – starting with the 5 Niyamas.

Known as observances, they help you become more present in your life. This first week the focus is on Saucha which means purity. It literally means to “clean up your act” on all levels.

This observance can take the form of cleaning out your closets and getting rid of clutter in your home. It can take the form of cultivating more awareness of your thoughts so you let go of any negative patterns of thinking in order to stay purely in each moment. On the mat, it asks that you stay fully in your body and breath and the union of the practice and any time you notice your mind wandering you bring it back to focus.

Our society struggles with this one- just look at how many people are looking at their phones to check their texts, social media accounts or are just so distracted they can’t be purely in the moment. I check myself regularly to be more aware of when my multi-tasking really becomes my inability to be more present or is just a way of avoiding what I need to do to “clean up my act.”

It has been a gift to watch my grandsons one full day a week. I get the chance to really BE with them. In the last couple of weeks of summer, I took them to a local splash pad to play. It was just a true delight to watch both the 5 and 2-year-old be purely in the moment with such joyful hearts. Nothing else mattered to them except to fully immerse themselves in the experience.

In the book Deborah quotes Krishnamurti who says “I enter fully into each experience, and I come out fully from each of them too. I put the whole of me into all I do, and…out of all I do.” This is the practice both on and off the mat. I invite you to explore how this niyama can impact your experiences and enhance your life.

Shoot me an email to, or send a message through Facebook to let me know if you have thoughts or ideas on how we can best start and nurture a virtual online conversation about this and future topics – so we can share thoughts, insights, experiences and questions. 

Janie Gunn