When we are young, we need accountability as we develop self-discipline. Our parents help steer us toward good and away from harm. As we grow older, we assume responsibility for ourselves and our actions. But learning to self-govern proves difficult for us, even with the most supportive of upbringings. We're human.
Through yoga we have the unique opportunity to learn how to master ourselves. First our body, then our mind, the breath being the mediator of the relationship between the two. This relationship will be the first of many that will be enhanced in this life-long practice.
The Yamas and Niyamas are a set of 10 multi-dimensional disciplines meant to help develop our relationships. Beginning externally with our relationship with the world around us (Yamas), we learn to live peacefully (Ahimsa), honestly (Satya), without stealing (Asteya), in moderation (Bramacharya), and without attachment (Aparigraha). The Niyamas get personal, exploring our relationship with ourself. Living with purity (Saucha), contentment (Santosha), self-discipline (Tapas), looking at yourself objectively and finally (Svadhyaya), finding freedom in the surrender of it all (Ishvara Pranidhana.)
Our daily lives are a series of relationships. All a reflection of ourselves as we interact within it. Through the physical practice of yoga we get to practice or observe ourselves in a variety of relationships. We present our bodies with a variety or situations, postures, to breathe through. Applying the yamas and Niyamas, and increasing awareness not only keeps our practice safe and effective physically, but can enhance every other aspect of our being. With mindful practice, we transform ourselves into strong, supple, adaptable, loving creatures.