|Year : 2023 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 51-59
The need for Yamā and Niyamā in promoting adolescents' physical and mental well-being
Sachi Sharma, Vikas Rawat
Division of Yoga and Humanities, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
|Date of Submission||29-Jul-2022|
|Date of Acceptance||06-Jan-2023|
|Date of Web Publication||03-Feb-2023|
Dr. Vikas Rawat
Division of Yoga and Humanities, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (SVYASA University), Jigani, Bengaluru, Karnataka, 560105
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Children in today's global world deal with the pressure of competition because of new standards and opportunities and tend to suffer from stress and mental disorders. A stressful life can lead to a variety of health issues if left untreated. It is necessary to show them how to cope with their tension and anxiety. In this context, yoga, an art and science of healthy living as well as a spiritual discipline emphasizes bringing mind and body into balance. The first two limbs of yoga according to Aṣṭāṅga yoga are restraints known as “yamās” and observances known as “niyamās.” These are a set of guidelines for practicing moderation in life and gradually fostering a sense of self-discipline, contentment, and detachment as you go. They are powerful tools for developing the personality of children, thereby improving their physical and mental well-being. Thus, it should be promoted at all stages of life, from pregnancy to old age. Early in life, children who learn these codes and remind themselves of what is right will not go astray when they grow up and will remain strong mentally and morally. Hence, there can be no integrated personality without the application of yogic ethical principles. Therefore, in this study, an attempt has been made to highlight the importance of yamā and niyamā in nurturing mental and physical health among adolescents.
Keywords: Adolescents, children, Gurukul, health, Niyamā, Yamā
|How to cite this article:|
Sharma S, Rawat V. The need for Yamā and Niyamā in promoting adolescents' physical and mental well-being. J Appl Conscious Stud 2023;11:51-9
|How to cite this URL:|
Sharma S, Rawat V. The need for Yamā and Niyamā in promoting adolescents' physical and mental well-being. J Appl Conscious Stud [serial online] 2023 [cited 2023 Dec 9];11:51-9. Available from: http://www.jacsonline.in/text.asp?2023/11/1/51/369128
| Introduction|| |
In today's global world, children are exposed to a wide range of new demands, standards, and opportunities. They are dealing with the pressure of competition and are under high pressure to perform well (Andelkar et al., 2018). The effects of this scenario are school absenteeism or school refusal, poor academic performance, or receiving grades lower than what would be expected based on the child's abilities (Ramsawh et al., 2010). Due to such increased competition and the variety of options available, they tend to suffer from stress and mental disorders. This negatively impacts health and leads to anxiety, sleeplessness, muscle pain, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. Therefore, it is imperative to teach children how to cope with this tension and anxiety because a stressful mind can lead to a variety of health issues if left untreated (Hagen and Nayar, 2014).
Several childhood mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, have become highly prevalent over the past few years (Hossain et al., 2022). Anxiety disorders are among the earliest psychiatric conditions to manifest with the onset of eleven years of age (Ramsawh et al., 2010). A recent study in the United States (US) found that the incidence of depression or anxiety in ages six to seventeen had risen from 5.4% in 2003 to 8.4% in 2011–2012. Another study published in 2010 reported that one in five US children experience a severe or debilitating mental health problem in their lifetime. Similar studies from Canada, Europe, and Australia show a comparatively high burden of child and adolescent mental health (CAMH) problems (Hossain et al., 2022).
It is also seen that children are pretty good at concealing their distress and emotional tension from their parents which leads to internalizing their stress and emotions. Sometimes, they dislike upsetting their parents which adds to their already high anxiety levels. They do not want their parents to be concerned about them. They wish to act in “acceptable” and “socially proper” ways. On the other hand, they rely on the environment created by society to help them reach their full potential. Hence, children experience challenges from their families, schools, and other social environments to perform well and adjust to society's fast-changing speed of growth (Hagen and Nayar, 2014).
In addition, there is an increasing complexity and challenge in the teaching profession nowadays. This can be attributed to the rise of global competitiveness, escalating lifestyle changes, availability of alternative sources of knowledge, and growing violence in the environment. It is surprising to see students being affected by this and behaving rudely, arguing, disobeying, and acting impatiently. Hence, it becomes necessary for the educational system to adapt to changing roles and demands (Akila, 2016).
Conversely, in the olden times, children up to the age of eight enjoyed staying at home. Home education taught them values, self-control, and social responsibility. As the proverb goes, “The mother is the first teacher, and the teacher is the second mother,” their primary education was built on values. The yamā and niyamā yogic principles were deeply ingrained from childhood. This showed that sage Patanjali's philosophy of yoga was truly practiced. In this light, the concept of yamā and niyamā can be taken into consideration as part of the personality development of children (Akila, 2016).
| An Introduction to Yoga|| |
In this context, yoga, a gift from the ancient ācāryas, emphasizes bringing mind and body into balance. It is an art and science of healthy living as well as a spiritual discipline that has been proven incredibly useful for people of all ages in alleviating lifestyle issues (Andelkar et al., 2018). Yoga includes yamā, niyamā āsana, prāṇāyāma, pratyāhāra, kriyā, and dhāraṇā, all of which are beneficial for maintaining physical fitness, mental alertness, and emotional balance (Dixit and Kharwar, 2017). The practice of yoga is not only about exercising, but also a spiritual path meant to change one's attitude and behavior, and reconnect the physicality with the spiritual side. The primary reason to practice yoga for most practitioners and yoga teachers may change over time, and spirituality becomes more relevant to maintain their practice (Büssing et al., 2021). In the end, this paves the way for a person's spiritual growth (Dixit and Kharwar, 2017).
According to both ancient and modern literature, yoga has a significant impact on people's overall well-being. One of the world's foremost yoga researchers, Shirley Telles, says in a nutshell that “Yoga is a powerful medium for developing the personality of children and making them capable of handling today's difficulties and issues, thereby improving their physical and mental well-being.” Children's well-being includes the ability to self-regulate emotionally, intellectually, and behaviorally, as well as the development of healthy relationships with peers and teachers (Hagen and Nayar, 2014). It has also been shown to boost academic performance and emotional balance in many clinical studies. Thus, yoga should be promoted from the beginning of life, i.e., at all stages from pregnancy to old age to live a stress free and healthy life (Andelkar et al., 2018).
| An insight into the Yamās and the Niyamās|| |
The first two limbs of yoga according to Aṣṭāṅga yoga are restraints known as “yamās” and observances known as “niyamās.” These both are prerequisites for yoga sādhaṇā (Andelkar et al., 2018). Sage Patanjali, in his treatise Yoga Sutras, builds his entire eight-fold path of yoga on the foundation of yamā and niyamā. Thus, the practice of asanas without yamā and niyamā is mere acrobatics (Bhatta, 2009).
Liberman (2004) explains yamā and niyamā are placed at the beginning of the yoga journey for a reason. The author emphasizes the need for yoga students to understand some basic recommendations and expectations before beginning actual practices (Agrawal and Pandey, 2022). These are the preparatory steps of yoga aimed at the purification of the mind to prepare it for contemplative practice. It is emphasized that these ethical practices are not to be achieved through forced denial. Forced denial is seen as counterproductive since it brings the mind into conflict with desires, leading to a disturbed state of mind and even neurosis in extreme situations (Sinha and Kumari, 2021).
In yoga śāstra “Right Living” is based on very simple ethical principles of “dos and don'ts” named yamās and niyamās (Bhatta, 2009). It lays out the principles as a set of guidelines for moderation in life and gradually fostering a sense of contentment, self-discipline, and detachment as you go. In this way, the practice of yoga is begun with an adequate amount of mental strength (Sinha and Kumari, 2021). These shape our lives and contribute to our holistic development and, provide guidance and stability to help us find joy, peace, and satisfaction in our lives. In this light, when principles are awakened and become more powerful, they are expressed through emotions (Naragatti, 2020). Hence, the vision of yogic education revolves around self-transformation (Sinha and Kumari, 2021).
Human conduct is a wide concept, referring to the best courses of action or outcomes that revolve around values. Morris Massey describes them as “internal standards that are valuable, desirable, useful, beautiful, constructive, and effective.” The feeling of right and wrong, or what ought to be, like “Equal rights for all,” “Excellence is worthy of admiration,” and so on is reflected in a person's values. They are human beings' guiding principles as it has an impact on how we live and where we go in life (Naragatti, 2020). Values are conducts that are both personal and social. The mind and body are inextricably linked, and each has an impact on the other. Hence, yamā and niyamā are principles that also promote mental well-being (Inchekar and Chavan, 2017).
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Yogic literature by Swami Swatmarama defines Yamās in its chapter 1 verse 16-II as,
ahiṁsā satyamasteyaṁ brahmacaryaṁ kṣamā dhṛtiaḥ |
dayārjavaṁ mitāhāraḥ śaūcaṁ caiva yamā daśa ||”
Nonviolence, truth, nonstealing, continence (being observed in a pure state of consciousness), forgiveness, endurance, compassion, humility, moderate diet, and cleanliness are the ten rules of conduct (Inchekar and Chavan, 2017).
Hatha Yoga Pradipika in its Chapter-1 verse 16-III states Niyamās as,
tapaḥ santoṣa āstikyaṁ dānamīśvarapūjanam |
siddhāntavākyaśravaṇaṁ hrīmatī ca tapo hutam |
niyamā daśa samproktā yogaśāstraviśāradaīḥ |||”
Penance (austerity), contentment, belief in the Supreme (God), charity, worship of God, listening to the recitations of sacred scriptures, modesty, a discerning intellect, japa (mantra repetition), and sacrifice are the ten observances (Inchekar and Chavan, 2017)
According to Tejobindu Upanishad, yamā and niyamā are defined as follows:
sarvaṁ brahmeti vaī jñāanādindiyagrāmasaṁyamaḥ | yamo ̍yamiti samprokto ̍bhyasanīyo muhurmuhuḥ ||17||
sajātīyapravāhaśca vijātīyatiraskṛtiḥ | niyamo hi parānando niyamātkriyate budhaīḥ ||18||”
It is called yamā when one controls all their senses and actions through the understanding that everything is brahmaṇ, and it should be practised over and over. The principle of niyamā is the inclination of the mind toward things of the same (spiritual) kind (viz., brahmaṇ) and averting from the things that are different from each other. Sages are said to follow this path of niyamā to attain the state of supreme bliss.
The five yamās and five niyamās according to Patanjali Yoga Sutras are as follows:
The word yamā refers to the attitude towards external codes of restraint or abstinences and self-regulation, and is often expressed as,
ahiṁsāsatyāsteyabrahmacaryāparigrahā yamāḥ || 2 30 ||”,
This means that one should not do anything exclusively for himself but for the good of society as well. The five self-restraints are not harming others, truthfulness, honesty, sensual abstinence and non-possessiveness.
- Ahiṁsā: Non-violence. The practice of restraint from harming others and developing compassion, mercy and gentleness towards all living beings
- Satya: Truthfulness. Restraining from falsehood in speech, thought, and action. It implies abstaining from untruthfulness, exaggeration, and pretense and not acting or saying things contrary to what one knows to be true
- Asteya: Nonstealing. Restraining from a desire to take what is not belonging to oneself. It also means not taking credit for what one has not done and developing an attitude of pleasure at seeing others enjoy their possessions
- Brahmacarya: Continence. Self-restraint from yielding to impulse or desire. It is a process of channelizing the lower energies of the body toward self-development and realizing the highest truth
- Aparigraha: Nongrasping. Restraint from hoarding and greed. It also involves curbing the tendency to accumulate unnecessary things. One should not collect wealth and objects that serve no other purpose than satisfying their childish vanity and desire to appear superior to others (Bhatta, 2009).
Niyamā is the attitude of internal observing and practicing self-training.
”zaEcs<tae;tp> SvaXyayeñrài[xanain inyma>. 2 32.
śaūcasantoṣatapaḥ svādhyāyeśvarapraṇidhānāni niyamāḥ || 2 32 ||”,
It means those acts which contribute to the happiness of the individual, such as purity, contentment, austerity, self-study and devotion to God (Naragatti, 2020).
- Śaūca: Cleanliness and purity of body, mind and thoughts. This will bring punctuality and clarity to one's life. Outer purity of the body can be done by water and eating pure and wholesome food. Whereas internal purity involves keeping the mind pure and away from evil tendencies and thoughts
- Santoṣa: It means contentment within. True happiness lies in accepting things in the way life offers. Moreover, it implies not desiring more wealth or material things that come naturally and also intangibles such as power, position, and praise
- Tapas: Hard work and discipline. It is a systematic effort involved in disciplining the body, speech, and mind. The intention is not only to purify these three instruments but to train them to withstand the challenges of life. Tapas enables a person to avoid all extremes in their responses and reactions and strive steadily for a spiritual goal
- Svādhyāya: Self-study and life-long learning. It is the process of broadening the intellect by studying known and unknown things. The prefix “sva” in svādhyāya refers to knowledge that comes from within and focuses on the workings of the “self,” the “I.” One can best study it by analyzing how one's relationships affect others and how the personal self-interferes with and obstructs the higher self
- Īśvarapraṇidhānā: Surrender to a higher power and understand the works of an unknown power that lies beyond our control (Bhatta, 2009).
Yoga practitioners face common injuries when they push themselves beyond their body's capabilities or fail to align them properly. In such a scenario, considering the yamās may prove beneficial to injury prevention. In the yamās, the emphasis is on taking care within each posture (ahiṁsā), being honest about the body's limitations (satya), practicing moderation within each posture (brahmacarya), and not becoming attached to acquiring extreme versions of a posture (aparigraha). If the yamās are emphasized in a practice that is nonviolent, self-compassionate, moderate, and unattached to results, this may lead to fewer negative outcomes and potentially more skillfulness outside of yoga practice (Brems et al., 2016). It also means that yoga practitioners will refrain from eating meat by following the intention of non-harming (ahiṁsā), and avoid alcohol by following the ideal of purity and clarity. This may lead to a healthier vegetarian lifestyle. Therefore, yoga's health-promoting elements might be overlooked without the yamās (Büssing et al., 2021).
Following the yamās and niyamās will have an impact on a person's mindfulness toward self, others, and nature (Büssing et al., 2021). The inputs of yamās change the mindset from a non-integral view (only my growth) to an integral view (my growth along with others) and hence, realize that every entity is related and interlinked. Second, moving from a mindset of individual achievement to that of community development, and finally moving away from the cut-throat mindset to the realization that there is enough for all. These insights subside antagonism against others. Further, a greater sense of inter-connectedness also results in a greater desire to take personal responsibility, and the orientation changes from being “rights-centric” to “duty-centric. Thus, yamās lead to improved workplace relations and enhanced positivity (Agrawal and Pandey, 2022).
Niyamās emphasizes discipline first at the body and then at the mind level. Along with the physical discipline brought by āsana and prāṇāyāma, the tapas and svādhyāya inputs of niyamā integrate the mind, body, and spirit. A person trained in rigor and hard work is likely to move away from mediocrity and unlikely to tolerate mediocre effort from others. These two dimensions (self-discipline [tapas] and self-study [svādhyāya]) enhance quality standards at the personal and collective levels. A culture of excellence is likely to be established with the input of yamās and niyamās. The connection to one's value systems and clarity of preferences is achieved through “self-connection” and “self-awareness” (niyamās) (Agrawal and Pandey, 2022). They serve to improve behavior and enhance an individual's intrapersonal attitudes and skills (Brems et al., 2016).
It might be difficult to practice devotion and surrender to the sacred (Īśvarapraṇidhānā) that is not yet experienced by western practitioners and nonreligious persons. Those who are open toward this specific aspect of spirituality will perceive the sacred in their lives more intensely and will feel gratitude, empathy, and well-being more often. Thus, following the yamās and niyamās may have a significant impact on the practitioner's life with subsequent lifestyle changes (Büssing et al., 2021). Yoga philosophy aims to balance outward action (Pravritti) and inward contemplation (Nivritti). The two important drivers are the integral thought process (developed if the yamās are practised) and rigor (developed if niyamās are practised) (Agrawal and Pandey, 2022). However, these effects are less intensively investigated when compared to the effects of other aspects of yoga on health and well-being (Büssing et al., 2021).
| Historical Background and Present Context of Ethical Principles|| |
Many religious traditions and secular organizations share similar values and practices as that of yamā and niyamā. As per the World Health Organization, lifestyle factors contribute the most to diseases worldwide. Individuals looking to improve their health are often encouraged to adhere to moral principles that help moderate their behavior. There has been a link between morality and health since Aristotle and the Stoics in the West and Buddhism and Jainism in the East. The Greeks associated eudemonia (“human flourishing”) with virtue. According to Yoga, the yamās and niyamās are integral to human thriving and self-realization by defining health holistically. Patanjali equated the yamās and niyamās with the remedy for “negative thoughts and actions which are the causes of unending misery and ignorance” (Weber and Sculthorp, 2016).
A lifelong practice of working toward oneself is called the Mahavrata (“Great Vows”). The five cardinal moral virtues emphasized in Jainism are Ahimsa (Nonviolence), Satya (Truthfulness), Asteya (Non-stealing) Brahmacharya (Celibacy), and Aparigraha (Non-possession) (Paswan, 2013). The five principle rules of morality (pancha-shilas or pañcasikkhapadas) in Buddhism occupy a significant place in the code of conduct. The five precepts of training are the most important system of morality for Buddhist lay people. They constitute the basic code of ethics to be respected by followers of Buddhism. These are the commitments to abstain from killing living beings, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and intoxication (Rao, 2018). According to Buddha, those who adhere to morality will enjoy greater longevity, happiness, and strength (Weber and Sculthorp, 2016).
The idea governing the ancient system of education was that of perfection, for developing the mind and soul of man. Ancient Indian education aimed at helping the individual to grow in the power and force of large universal qualities in harmony. It focused on building a disciplined and values-based culture. Human values such as trust, respect, honesty, dignity, and courtesy are the building blocks of any free and advanced society (Bhatta, 2009).
This holistic education involves a harmonious blend of the knowledge of the outer world (avidya) and the inner world (vidya). It teaches both scientific and spiritual quests that are complementary to each other. One for the discovery of the outer world of energy, space, and time; and the other for discovering peace, harmony, and virtue in the inner world of human consciousness (Bhatta, 2009).
Character and discipline cannot be imparted to an individual by preaching. Despite being taught about morality and immorality, discipline and indiscipline, and character and characterlessness, students can follow others' examples to behave according to required standards. Just like a stone needs a design and constant effort from a sculptor to be carved into a magnificent idol, a child requires a suitable plan and continuous effort to become a worthy individual. A useful observation has been made by Swami Vivekananda in this context to mold the character of the students. It includes the teaching of values and the ideal life of extraordinary personalities from literature and history (Bhatta, 2009). Discipline does not always arise from one's mind, it has to be learned from outside many a time. Enhanced control over one's body and disciplined behavior is not an end goal but a means of gaining better control over ourselves or having a better connection with our inner being (Agrawal and Pandey, 2022).
In such education, the teacher is seen less as a person of authority who leads and controls and more as a friend who mentors. Open and honest communication (Satya) is expected and differences between people are respected and appreciated. In classrooms, the reward of cooperation and growing together is emphasized rather than envying competition. Furthermore, reflection and questioning (svādhyāya) are encouraged rather than passive memorization of facts. Attention to experiential learning, the significance of relationships, and primary human values within the learning environment make the goals of holistic education distinguish it from other forms of education (Bhatta, 2009).
Currently, educationists across the globe are grappling with a central and all-encompassing question: what kind of education does the society of tomorrow need? This is the era of a rise in global competitiveness, escalating lifestyle changes, availability of alternative sources of knowledge and the growing violence in their environment. In a world of accelerating economy, environment, and social change, educators are aware of the changing role of education and new demands made on educational systems. They have developed several underlying principles universal and identical to the goals of educators, citizens, policy-makers, and other stakeholders in the process of education at all levels (Bhatta, 2009).
They believe that all forms of education, formal and non-formal, must serve society as a means to create good citizens. For this to be achieved, the educational process must contribute to developing the student's intelligence, for him or her to flourish into goodness. The goal of education should be to cultivate a global outlook, a love of nature, and a concern for other people and the environment (Bhatta, 2009).
To do this, education must address all four distinct dimensions of human personality, starting with the physical body, developing intellectual and esthetic sensibilities, developing moral values that are desirable for society, and last but not least, spiritual growth on the inside. An even more important purpose is to create an environment that allows students to grow into complete humans. A complete human being is not just a person with an inward understanding, the ability to explore, examine and go beyond their inward state, but also someone proficient in the outward manifestation of their abilities (Bhatta, 2009).
If the yamās and niyamās are universally applicable and morality is beneficiary to health outcomes, a strategy is needed to import this into healthcare. The yamās and niyamās could be used as a central reference for quality management decision-makers. For health care to change, a broader leadership committed to a process of deepening personal and professional morality will need to emerge and collaborate. As with the individual level, a solid evidence base for its effectiveness at the organizational level is required. Workplace wellness and leadership development programs coupled with other aspects of yoga systems could be used as a vehicle. Hence, embedding these principles is possible within behavioral health programs (Weber and Sculthorp, 2016).
In “The Principles and Practice of Yoga in Health Care,” the authors suggest that the yoga lifestyle can be best implemented in schools and workplaces. Furthermore, the foundation of many schools is to promote ethics and values as their function and purpose. Organizations such as Google and Whole Foods have been developing values-oriented systems. This involves using organizational policies, prosocial behavior, and personal integration choices to reward culture change. These various calls for ethical behavior in healthcare are notable. Since health care is a vast field, several levels need to be considered. These levels include looking at morality in the context of individual behavior, moral leadership, community development, and policy-making (Weber and Sculthorp, 2016).
| The Role of Yamā and Niyamā in Childhood|| |
Even though the process of character development begins at a very early age, some would even say that it begins even before one is born. Good and bad traits in one's personality emerge in many ways as one grows up and are spread throughout society in many forms. In a hypothetical situation, if a doctor was raised in a materialistic environment without any sense of spirituality, he could be insensitive to the needs of his poor patients and overcharge them. Since he believes that empathy and compassion have no place in his professional conduct and regards money as the foremost thing (Naragatti and Acharya, 2019).
It is possible for him to engage in unfair trade practices or violate business ethics in the hope to become wealthy. He may also behave like a commercial dealer with no emotions toward the weaker sections of society. In such a case, if he is acting blindly selfish and does not feel concerned for the well-being of society, he may turn out to be ignorant and violate laws related to environmental protection. He may act impulsive, short-tempered, bitter, or abusive and may deny the rights of others or does not believe in the dignity of an individual. The acquisition of these traits during childhood or the formative years of one's life leads to tension in the family or society (Naragatti and Acharya, 2019).
As a result, the absence of a lack of moral education at a young age may trigger the development of a lack of character across all professions, social groups, and fields of human activity. Interactions between individuals or between professionals at this stage would further intensify corruption and moral degradation. A cycle would be set in motion. This would put the entire society under the control of corruption, immorality, and unethical practices. Consequently, all would suffer, blaming each other for their struggles. Each of us would have a moral weakness to some degree, so no one could control the other (Naragatti and Acharya, 2019).
Therefore, the time has come to introduce yoga education into schools, a concept that is preferable to children and youth, as it offers steadiness and maturity to those who practice it every day with persistence (Hagen and Nayar, 2014). It has already emerged as an integrated approach to promote positive physical and mental health and as preventive medicine for psychosomatic disorders in children and adolescents (Purohit et al., 2016).
This may require an enabling environment. To frame the components of such an environment, the model draws inspiration from the first two limbs of yoga, namely yamā and niyamā, or restraints and observances. Following these principles in their entirety, while possible in a Gurukul-like system, may not be possible in the non-residential modern schooling system. Values such as cleanliness, truthfulness, non-stealing, and some degree of nonviolence are taught universally in almost all schooling systems. However, vegetarianism, ascetic lifestyle, and surrender to a higher power may encounter cultural resistance in some parts of the modern schooling systems. Similarly, it may be difficult to implement in a non-residential schooling environment (Sinha and Kumari, 2021). In education, the real challenge is to ensure that students leave school well-established both outwardly and internally in goodness. This is done not through an academic curriculum that condenses the world into instructional packages, but through direct engagement with the environment (Bhatta, 2009).
As with all other principles of yamā and niyamā, auto-suggestion is the best method for practicing these values in daily life. Children who are taught these codes and remind themselves of what is right from an early age will not go astray when they grow up. Despite being confronted by temptations in life, they will still be able to maintain high moral and mental standards throughout their lives. We now turn to the question of whether a parent punishing his or her child is equivalent to ahiṁsā or hiṁsā. Since the intention is not to cause any harm or pain, it is not hiṁsā. As punishment, such actions are not meant to make the child cry, but to correct the child. In any case, whether it is a thief or a robber, a gentleman or a friend, regardless of who the individual may be, no matter how harsh the act may appear, any action with a genuine spirit of correction cannot be termed hiṁsā (Anandamurti, 1957).
| Physical Health through Yamā and Niyamā|| |
When yamā and niyamā are fully and honestly practised, they become mahāvrata or tremendous commitments that transcend time, location, and situations. Furthermore, the person's entire environment gets infused with these values, and hatred is not visible in his or her presence. We have many examples of persons who practised satya and ahiṁsā in the recent past, and this fact (lack of hatred) was observed in their surroundings. As a result, the practice of yamā and niyamā has an instant effect (Srinivasan, 2016).
The majority of yoga research focuses on postures, breathing techniques, and meditation. According to a bibliometric analysis of 312 yoga randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published between 1975 and 2014, only 32 included yogic philosophy. A total of three studies explicitly mentioned the ethical aspects of yoga (Bringmann et al., 2021). The yamā and niyamā were regarded as contributing factors in enhancing self-care and relational patterns in a qualitative study. Prominent authors have discovered that a comprehensive yoga intervention that explicitly addressed ethical components of practice was more successful in reducing anxiety-related symptoms and salivary cortisol than body-related postures alone in quantitative analysis (Sullivan et al., 2018). Improved immunity is a well-documented benefit of yoga practice and this strengthened immunity in addition to the hygiene and cleanliness developed through the practice of yogic ethical principles helps prevent numerous infections from settling down in the child's system (Kundu, 2014).
| The Yamā and Niyamā Approach to Mental Health|| |
Yamās and Niyamās are yogic concepts that help us gain control over our desires and emotions, resulting in peace and tranquillity. One of the traits that a yogi possesses is the ability to follow these ethical principles to live a happy, healthy, and balanced life. They are practices that assist us to establish pleasant feelings and positive attitudes in our personal and social lives and hence help in emotional regulation (Tyagi, 2020). The five niyamās, which deal with our inner world through self-training practices, aid in mental health promotion. A mentally healthy person has a clear mind and positive thoughts (śaūca), is content (santoṣa), and has mastery over his body, senses, actions, and mind (tapaḥ) (Taneja, 2014).
In chapter six of the Bhagavad-gītā, lord Kṛṣṇa describes some practical instructions to Arjuna on practicing asana. The yogi's seat should be set in a clean place, not too high or low, with kuśh grass, deerskin, and a cloth over it, spread one over the other (verse 11). After sitting on the seat and making the mind one-pointed by restraining the thought process and the senses, one can attain self-purification through yoga (verse 12). Clean surroundings help in keeping the mind clean as well. Therefore, keeping the body clean and pure by cultivating yamā(śaūca), turns the body into a temple where the soul resides (Prabhupada, 1972).
Similarly, in chapter two of the Bhagavad-gītā verse 63, lord Kṛṣṇa explains to Arjuna how can one learn to locate and properly use the energy in the context of brahmacāri who teaches by example how to dwell in the principle of creativity. As one broods over the objects of the senses, one becomes attached to or repulsed by them. The attachment to objects of the senses leads to a desire to possess and enjoy them. When that desire of the sense object cannot be satisfied, frustration ensues. This leads to anger thus, the ability to remember becomes impaired. As a result of a loss of correct memories, the power of rational thinking is hampered. The loss of rational thinking will lead to the destruction of mankind (Prabhupada, 1972).
Stress and emotions
The five yamās (nonviolence, honesty, non-stealing, abstinence, and non-greed) and the five niyamās (purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, and dedication) are the five pillars of yoga philosophy. Experts recommend practicing yoga as a whole, including its ethical aspects such as positive values, attitudes, and behaviors, especially for mentally unhealthy persons. The role that value-related behavior plays in restoring and promoting well-being is well-documented in psychological research and has become increasingly popular for counseling in therapies, such as acceptance and commitment therapy (Bringmann et al., 2021). Yamā and niyamā as an intervention may be used in conjunction with complementary and alternative medical methods to improve and treat physical and mental health (Xu et al., 2021).
It is also seen that the consistent practice of yamā and niyamā can help homeostatic energy stay within a steady range. This allows the mind and body to cope better with environmental changes and maintain a more robust harmony. It also develops consciousness and cognitive ability and establishes a foundation for emotional regulation by removing blockages of significant energy in the meridian system (Xu et al., 2021). Modern research demonstrates the benefits of yoga on the cognitive performance of children and adolescents and has grown substantially in the last three decades (Sinha and Kumari, 2021).
Yoga is important in instilling ethical, moral, and spiritual values in youngsters. A detailed analysis of the Vedas by the sages reveals yamā and niyamā as the universal norms of conduct in everyday life. The yamā principles control most of social life, whereas the niyamā principles govern all aspects of personal existence (Patil and Thapliyal, 2020). Violation of these ethical principles is the reason for stress and anxiety. Hence, it is worth noting that incorporating yamā and niyamā with other limbs of yoga will result in better overall health (Xu et al., 2021).
A healthy person has the ability to be happy within oneself and to be able to make others happy through prayer, meditation, mantra, and other forms of spiritual practice. Spiritual wellness is primarily based on the principles of positive thinking and tolerance. (Dixit and Kharwar, 2017). The principles of yamā and niyamā are most useful for moral improvement and upliftment (Save, 2019). Practicing yamā like “ahiṁsā paramo dharma” would help to boost social health and spiritual well-being by strengthening internal bonds (Dixit and Kharwar, 2017). It helps in creating a community where people self-regulate to avoid harming others and maintain integrity, rather than relying on external monitoring, which may not always be available. Likewise, using self-training approaches, the five niyamās help us cope with our inner worlds and maintain mental health (Kapatel, 2019). Thus, yamā, niyamā, dhyana, and other yogic practices are crucial for social and spiritual progress (Dixit and Kharwar, 2017).
| Conclusion|| |
Developed by ancient Indians centuries ago, yoga is a form of discipline for the mind and body that helps in controlling mind. It is a tool that can be used effectively for teaching value education in childhood. Several yoga streams emphasize these divine values. Furthermore, yoga scriptures advocate following an ideal lifestyle for children. Hence, early exposure to these values and engaging them in this lifestyle helps to build the fundamentals for good character and moral behavior (Naragatti and Acharya, 2019). Hence, there can be no integrated personality without the application of the yamā and niyamā, which provide a solid foundation for character development (Bhatta, 2009).
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Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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