I would like to say, from the outset, that I do not claim any scholastic expertise, or authority, on the topic. Consider this as a reflective sharing, which I pray will make Patanjali’s Niyamas interesting and approachable in a meaningful manner.

Let’s put a little bit of context on the object of life.

Why is there a whole teaching around these things? Because there is a sense of a higher purpose to what we are doing here. And that has been identified, for example as Sat, Chit, Ananda – Truth, Consciousness and Bliss. Also identified as Jiwan Mukti; meaning whilst alive cutting the root of attachments and false identifications with the world. This is part of the objective – to come to realise who we really are free of the false identification, which in kundalini yoga mantras we also have that little phrase God and me, me and God are one.
Realise your true nature. You are of that Divine Intelligence, light frequency and vibration of that creative force of all things. So that is where we want to get to.

Niyama is part of the Ashtanga. Asht means 8. And anga means a limb. So, there are 8 limbs.

That is interesting in the sense you think of a wheel with 8 spokes or a deity with 8 arms on her and this is 8 limbs and although it is written in a very linear way, the 8 limbs of yoga of patanjali, it doesn’t necessarily have to be approached in a linear way. Both work. Linear exists and there is something which is like you can go from any angle (anga) and reach the whole.

But it is interesting, why 8? The Buddhists have the 8-fold path; their path to liberation and realisation. The American Indians healing circle has 8 points on it where the elders sit on the healing circle. The tri-grams of the I Ching are 8. So, there is something very powerful about 8. We also know that there are many mantras (ashtanga mantras) with 8 parts. Something about 8, the road to infinity, which is symbolised by the number 8. Patanjali of course joined what might we call it, the club of 8 by giving the yogic version of the 8 limbs, 8 aspects, 8 qualities to take into account and practice.

Yama means measure. It probably means other things as well, but we will start with that. For example, pranayama means to measure the breath, regulate or moderate the breathing, the flow of the prana; pranayama. So, we have Yama and we have Niyama. It is good to get the idea at this point how the idea of ‘to measure’ also has a sense of moderation. To do what you do in moderation. To moderate (regulate) the flow of your life, your actions, of your thoughts, and your breathing. These are not practices that are meant to be done in the extreme. But done in moderation. It is a useful attitude or perspective to have from the start.

Physical body has 5 senses, 5 limbs, 2 legs, 2 arms and a head, 5 senses, smell, taste, sight, touch and hearing. And body made of 5 elements, 5 tattvas we call them; my reflection here is that there is some correspondence. I am not saying that it is an easy one to identify, but why this 5 keeps occurring. Why 5 Yamas and Niyamas. Why not 6 or 3 or 18 or something else? If you study yoga you will know the 5 pranas, or vayus, the five winds that flow through the body and serve different functions in the body. So, taking this model of 5, these are the Yamas. They are moderating your relationship out into the world. So, you see the arrows going out.

Ahimsa no harm to the others. Asteya, no stealing from others. Satya be truthful in your communication. Aparigraha is non- possessive; not to take and hold, and not to let go: mine, mine, mine. Brahmacharya, which is normally translated as celibacy, but very interesting that it also means Brahma; Brahma is a God and Charya is how you act; your character. The word character maybe comes from the Sanskrit root of Charya, which is about your action and your behaviour. To behave Godly. Godly behaviour. It usually implies some kind of abstention, renouncing. Normally it is referred to with sex or with diet or not swearing or cursing. Some kind of abstention. These are the 5 Yamas. Moderating your relationship with the world.
We are going to go on here. These are the 5 passions: you might have heard of:

Kam, krodh, lobh, moh and ahangkar. What are they? Lust also means wilfulness. I want. I want. That is the first and when you can’t get what you want, you get angry; you try to control and manipulate what you want and this comes from inside. You see the way I have drawn them. They go out. They corrupt the relationship with the world around you and to yourself of course. If you can turn that upon yourself to be angry at yourself, that can also happen.

Then comes greed. When you do get, you want more and more and then not only that, you get attached to what you have, you don’t want to let it go. You don’t want to share it. This is also holding on internally. Then. what I call the crown of the 5 passions. is the pride. It is called ahangkar. Ahangkar is made of 2 parts. Ahang and kar. Kar is a little nasal. Kar is action/doing.

Ahang is about yourself. You have the illusion that you are the doer. That all what you have in your life, your beautiful body or a nice car, whatever comes to your life, that you are the doer of it. That takes away gratitude. It dissolves the ability to have gratitude for life. Why should I be grateful to anybody? I did it. I am the achiever, so I get all the credit. That is the crown of the 5 passions. So, this is a big thing, because part of the world of yoga is to transform the 5 senses and 5 tattvas in a way that they become friends to the soul (instead of thieves), because the things we just described here are not friends to the soul. They are absolutely getting in the way. They are corrupting the environment; they obscure your soul.
They put a veil over your soul.