The Five Yamas of Ashtanga Yoga– For a Fulfilling Life

It has been proven beyond doubt that we are not just physical bodies alone. The physical body is our grossest form which is just a reflection of the quality of our subtler layers including the energy sheath, mental and knowledge sheath as well as the psychic imprints and beliefs we carry over lifetimes.

Most of our diseases are psychosomatic (having their origin in the subtler sheaths of our consciousness). Treating such diseases at only physical level is akin to gulping down a painkiller for curing your headache which doesn’t cure the cause of pain but only numbs our senses to the feeling of pain.

Real healing occurs only when we can tap the psychosomatic origin which contributed to the creation of that disease. Our karmas ( past actions) and samskaras (memories and experiences) are stored in the Koshas especially in Vigyanmaya Kosha. Vigyanamaya Kosha is the intellectual body. It can have a positive or negative orientation depending on the sensory impressions that we absorb from our environment. These impressions are in turn are colored by our past experiences over lifetimes. It also controls our Manomaya Kosha or the mind and thoughts. It is very difficult to control the thoughts. Read more about Panch Koshas in my blog.

Vedanta philosophy aptly says: मनोमात्रजगत् – Manomatrajagat – “The whole world exists in your mind”. In our minds there exist so many levels and worlds. Only through controlling the mind can we get the ability to re-write our destiny and manifest our deepest desires. 

Philosophical congruence of Five Principles with Ashtang Yoga and Bhagvad Gita

Maharishi Patanjali defines Yoga in his Yoga Sutra 1.2 as ‘योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोध:’ “Yogas chitta vritti nirodha”. Yoga is stilling the mind in order to experience Ultimate Reality and move toward Self-realization. It’s very difficult to remove the fluctuations of the mind. The mind is always thinking. The fluctuations of the mind which Maharishi Patanjali refers to originate from desires, aversions, attachments, ignorance (Avidya) and the ego‘s sense of “I” and “me” and “mine.”

True healing begins when we are able to perceive the nature of the imbalance.

Ashtanga Yoga offers the most scientific process of mastering of the mind The first two steps of Ashtanga Yoga (1) Yama and (2) Niyama (the ten ethical principles of Raja Yoga) provide the ethical framework and context within which the process of self-inquiry needs to be initiated.

The Five Principles of Reiki resonate with the Yamas and Niyamas prescribed in Maharishi Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. They also find common ground in Sankhya Darshan as well as Bhagvad Gita.

The Five Principles explained through Sankhya Yoga and Ashtang Yoga

1. Just for today, I will not worry
2. Just for today, I will not be angry

Non-attachment is the key to keeping your balance in life. It is only out of our attachment to worldly things, persons, property, valuables etc., and from the fear of losing them do worry and anger arise.
Five Yama/ Principles explained through Ashtang Yoga

One of the yamas of Ashtanga Yoga – Aparigraha (Non-possessiveness) relate to this principle.

Aparigraha, or non-possessiveness, can also be considered as non-attachment, non-grasping, non-clinging or non-greed.  It is the quality of being able to let go. Aparigraha guides us to practice divine play, experience full intimacy, and contact with the moment, and then to let go of it to allow the next thing to come in. The lighter is the load of attachments we carry with us, the more we become free to enjoy and engage in the present moment. The more the air we exhale, the more is the space created in our body to receive the fullness of the next breath of inhalation.  The more we share and give away, the more expansive and light we become. Our journey of life is towards greater freedom. A bird cannot continue holding its perch and fly. Practicing constant generosity and unfailing trust will keep our greed and anger in check.

Swami Jnaneshvara says it beautifully: “Love is what is left when You’ve let go of All the things you love.”
Reiki Principles interpreted through teachings of Bhagvad Gita

Bhagvad Gita Chaptre 2 Verse 62

ध्यायतो विषयान्पुंस: सङ्गस्तेषूपजायते |

सङ्गात्सञ्जायते काम: कामात्क्रोधोऽभिजायते || 62||

dhyāyato vihayān pusa sagas tehūpajāyate
gāt sañjāyate kāma kāmāt krodho ’bhijāyate

When a man thinks of objects, it gives rise to attachment for them from which desire is born and desire gives rise to anger.

Anger, greed, lust, worry etc. are diseases of the mind (mānas rog).

The Ramayan states: 

मानक रोग कछुक मैं गाए। हहिं सब कें लखि बिरलेन्ह पाए

mānas roga kachhuka mai gāe hahi saba ke lakhi biralenha pāe 

“We are all aware of the diseases of the body — even a small bodily ailment can make one miserable — but seldom do we realize about our innumerable mental ailments.”

And since we do not consider lust, anger, greed, etc. as mental ailments, we do not try to find a cure for them.

Desire gives rise to two more problems—greed and anger.

When the fulfillment of desire is obstructed, it gives rise to anger. Anger does not arise by itself but is created from the obstruction of desire; and desire arises from attachment, while attachment comes from the contemplation of the sense objects. Thus from a simple act of contemplating the sense objects arises the ailments of greed and anger. 

क्रोधाद्भवति सम्मोह: सम्मोहात्स्मृतिविभ्रम: |
स्मृतिभ्रंशाद् बुद्धिनाशो बुद्धिनाशात्प्रणश्यति || 63||



Anger clouds judgment.  In anger, one commits mistakes that he/she later regrets.  Clouding of the intellect leads to bewilderment of memory. The sense of what  is right and what is wrong is forgotten in the surge of emotions. It is from here the downward descent continues. The bewilderment of memory leads to destruction of the intellect. And when our inner guide, the intellect is destroyed, one is ruined. Thus the path of descent from divinity to ruin begins with attachment of the sense objects.

3. Just for today I will do my work honestly

Working Honestly Principle explained through Ashtang Yoga

The Niyamas of Ashtang Yoga – Satya (truthfulness) and Asteya (non-stealing) relate to this principle.

Honesty and Truthfulness are more than simply not telling a lie. Honesty means having integrity in life. Honesty does not ask for an easier choice from us. In fact in our day to day lives, truth demands from us to pay attention and to be right the first time.

Honesty also entails not telling lies to ourselves. How often, we find ourselves in trouble owing to the lies we have been telling ourselves. We make so many promises to ourselves that we fail to honour. How many times we find ourselves backtracking on the promises we made to ourselves. We also lie to ourselves when we set lofty goals that are more like building castles in the air and difficult to achieve. Can you trust yourselves to keep the promises you make to yourselves. Being honest with ourselves will make us trustworthy and absolve us from the guilt and regret we feel after being dishonest. There is a substance or a weight to a person who is honest and truthfulness.

Our life feels different when our whole self is aligned with our thoughts, words, and actions. When we are centered in the moment, we are fully able to meet the challenges of life.

Another aspect of workinghonestly is Non-Stealing. Non-stealing means much more than taking what isn’t truly ours. We must understand that from the moment we are born, we are in debt to this gift called life. Ancient Vedic scriptures advise us of not taking anything without giving something back. Imagine what the world would look like when each one of us gave something back the moment he took something. This is the principle of inherent sense of reciprocity.

When we are not working honestly or are not giving our 100% towards our work (Karma), we are also stealing from our own future lives. When we live in the past or future we steal from ourselves.

Asteya, or non-stealing is also to shift our focus from others to ourselves. When we focus on our ownwork and growth we derive joy and challenge in shaping ourselves. Based on the fullness of our own talent, we start serving the world instead of stealing from it.

We dream for so much but eventually get only what we have the competency to have. Asteya, means that we become capable of receiving what we ask for. It is a grand life vision to work honestly in shaping ourselves into someone of value rather than focussing on stealing from someone.

Bhagvad Gita Chapter V

संन्यास: कर्मयोगश्च नि:श्रेयसकरावुभौ |
तयोस्तु कर्मसंन्यासात्कर्मयोगो विशिष्यते || 2||

sannyāsa karma-yogaśh cha niśhreyasa-karāvubhau
tayostu karma-sannyāsāt karma-yogoviśhi

Lord Shree Krishna compares karmsanyās and karm-yog.  A karm yogi is one who does both, spiritual and social, duties.  Social duties are done with the body while the mind is attached to God. 

Think always that all your actions are being observed by God and Guru.  This is the sādhanā of karm-yog, by which we gradually elevate ourselves from bodily consciousness to spiritual consciousness. 

Lord Shree Krishna extols karm-yog over karmsanyās.

ज्ञेय: स नित्यसंन्यासी यो न द्वेष्टि न काङ् क्षति |
निर्द्वन्द्वो हि महाबाहो सुखं बन्धात्प्रमुच्यते || 3||

nirdvandvo hi mahā-bāhosukha

Karm yogis continue to discharge their worldly duties while internally practicing detachment.  Hence, they accept both positive and negative outcomes with equanimity, as the grace of God. 

 There is a great story illustrating this concept.  Once a piece of wood went to a sculptor and asked if he can make it beautiful. The sculptor replied, “Yes I can make you look beautiful.  But are you ready for it?”  The wood affirmed that it was ready. As soon as the sculptor started hammering and chiselling, the wood started screaming asking the sculptor to stop as it was so painful.  The sculptor said, “If you wish to look lovely, you will have to undergo the pain.”  The wood finally gave in but requested him to be  gentle and considerate.”  The sculptor transformed the wood into a beautiful deity fit to sit on the altar of the temple. 

In the same way, we are owing to lifetimes of karmas.  To become internally pure and beautiful, we must be willing to surrender and allow the God do HIS job of purifying us. 

4. Just for today I will give thanks for my many blessings

There are many ways to interpret the extolled virtue of being grateful. From the perspective of Quantum physics, everything is energy and vibration. Like frequency attracts like frequency. When we vibrate in the frequency of the feeling of gratefulness, we attract more and more things and circumstances in life for which we are grateful for. So being grateful attracts abundance, joy and happiness.

B.G.Chapter 9

अनन्याश्चिन्तयन्तोमांयेजना: पर्युपासते|
तेषांनित्याभियुक्तानांयोगक्षेमंवहाम्यहम्|| 22||

ananyāśhchintayantomāṁ ye janāḥparyupāsate
teṣhāṁnityābhiyuktānāṁ yoga-kṣhemaṁvahāmyaham

To those who always think of Me and have exclusive devotion to Me, I provide what they lack and also preserve what they already possess.

Just like a mother can never desert her newborn helpless child who is entirely dependent upon her,   God offers  motherlycare to those who surrender completely to Him.  Being grateful and surrender are complimentary. Vahāmiaham, means “I personally carry the burden of maintaining My devotees,” God promises two things. 

  1. He bestows spiritual assets upon His devotees which they do not possess. 
  2. khem—He protects the spiritual assets that His devotees already possess.

Thus the attitude of thankfulness and gratefulness bestows a huge quantum of blessings.

5. Just for today I will be kind to my neighbour and every living thing.

One of the Yama’s of Ashtang Yoga is “Ahimsa” which on a broader interpretation includes being kind and compassionate in addition to non-violence not only towards others but also to oneself.

Ahimsa meaning nonviolence, besieges us to step gently and lightly, do not harm anyone around us not even the mother Earth and to honour the relationship we have with each other as well as with ourselves.

We get filled with compassion as we undertake simple acts of kindness and consider others’ lives to be as important as our own. It stems from the great Truth of Oneness. We all are a part of same Universal Consciousness we call as Shiva or Bramha.


Lord Krishna now goes on to explain in Chapter 12 verses 13 to 19, the qualities of devotees who are dear to Him. 

अद्वेष्टा सर्वभूतानां मैत्र: करुण एव च |
निर्ममो निरहङ्कार: समदु:खसुख: क्षमी || 13||

सन्तुष्ट: सततं योगी यतात्मा दृढनिश्चय: |
मय्यर्पितमनोबुद्धिर्यो मद्भक्त: स मे प्रिय: || 14||


Free from malice towards one and all living beings.  He who realizes that all living beings are parts of God, do not harbour envy toward others even to those who are inimical towards him.

Loving and compassionate.  Devotion fosters the feeling of oneness amongst all living beings being children of the one God.  This leads to the bond of affection and compassion towards the sufferings of others.

Non attachment to possessions and free from egotism.  Pride is the biggest enemy of devotion.  Humility eliminates pride.

Equipoised in happiness and sorrow.  Devotees have faith that they are only to do efforts leaving the results of Karma in the hands of God.  So whatever is the outcome they accept it with equanimity as the will of God.

Ever forgiving.  Keeping enemity and negative emotions toward others ruins one’s own life.  So real devotees refuse to let in unforgiving thoughts under all circumstances.

Completely devoted to Me.  Devotees are yogis because their consciousness is aligned with God.  This absorption ever steady and constant because they are always in communion with God.

Dedicated to Me in mind and intellect.  When the the mind and intellect are in total surrender to God, the physical sense, knowledge senses, and soul all get devoted to God.  Lord Krishna says that devotees having these qualities are very dear to Him.

The Importance of FIVE Reiki Principles

The FIVE Reiki  principles as well as Ashtang yoga’s ten Yamas & Niyamas, can help in creating a congenial environment to manifest the purpose of our lives. The joy of a life lived fully and skilfully is nothing short of ecstasy. The amount of joy that comes from our achievement of mastery in life is immeasurable.

These principles serve as guidelines, precepts, restraints and ethical disciplines to help you take ownership of your life and direct it towards the fulfilment that you wish to seek.