An in-depth explanation of the foundational principles of Patanjali's Ashtanga Yoga: Yama and Niyama.
Yama and Niyama are often called the Ten Commandments of Yoga, but they have nothing to do with the ideas of sin and virtue or good and evil as dictated by some cosmic potentate. Rather they are determined by a thoroughly practical, pragmatic basis: that which strengthens and facilitates our yoga practice should be observed and that which weakens or hinders it should be avoided. It is not a matter of being good or bad, but of being wise or foolish. Each one of these Five Don’ts (Yama) and Five Do’s (Niyama) is a supporting, liberating foundation of Yoga.
Yama means self-restraint in the sense of self-mastery, or abstention, and consists of five elements. Niyama means observances, of which there are also five. Here is the complete list of these ten Pillars as given in Yoga Sutras 2:30,32:
Ahimsa: non-violence, non-injury, harmlessness
Satya: truthfulness, honesty
Asteya: non-stealing, honesty, non-misappropriativeness
Brahmacharya: sexual continence in thought, word and deed as well as control of all the senses
Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, non-acquisitiveness
Shaucha: purity, cleanliness
Santosha: contentment, peacefulness
Tapas: austerity, practical (i.e., result-producing) spiritual discipline
Swadhyaya: introspective self-study, spiritual study
Ishwarapranidhana: offering of one’s life to God