Yamas and niyamas

/ February 8, 2015/ Holistic Nutrition, Recipes, Yoga/ 0 comments

During my stay at the Himalayan institute, I had the privilege of working in the kitchen. Their practice of yamas and niyamas and being mindful while they work, it really help me understand these spiritual disciplines and inspire me to practice them.

The pictures that you see with the yamas and niyamas hang in one of the kitchen walls of this ashram as guidance and reminder. What impressed me the most is that they make time to work in silence as a way to develop mindfulness and assist anyone that felt behind schedule.

What are yamas and niyamas?

The yamas and niyamas are 2 of the 8 limbs of yoga. The Yoga sutras defines the 8 limbs of yoga as the spiritual disciplines we must practice to clear the mind from impurities to have our true inner self (Atman) revealed.

The yamas are the following basic rules of conduct:

  • Ahimsa (non-hurting or nonviolence)
  • Satya (truthfulness)
  • Asteya (non-stealing)
  • Brahmacharya (to walk in brahman)
  • Aparigraha (non-possessiveness)

The niyamas are various observances that help clean and strengthen the mind:

  • Saucha (purity of the body and the mind)
  • Santosha (contentment)
  • Tapas (that which generates heat, conserving energy, self-discipline)
  • Svadhyaya (self study)
  • Ishvara – pranidhana (truthful surrender to the divine, devotion)

How to practice them?

We must observe the yamas and niyamas at all times regardless of place or circumstances. Here are some applicable ideas for work or our yoga practice:

  • Respecting your limits can prevent us from hurting ourselves
  • Acting according to our words, thoughts, and believes
  • Not being envious of others and what they posses
  • Recognizing that we merely borrow and do not own anything
  • Not being greedy or wasteful
  • Maintaining a clean body as well as a clean mind
  • Simplifying our lives
  • Accepting ourselves
  • Letting go of attachments to the results of our work or practice

What do you do to practice yamas and niyamas?

Red lentil dahl

Red lentil dahl

One of my favorite dishes at the ashram was the red lentil dahl. It was delicious and easy to digest.

Here is my own version of dahl with cooling spices that are beneficial to reduce pita. These spices also happen to aid with digestion. If you are not pita, you can add garlic and onions to it. Garlic and onions are heating.


  • ½ cup red lentils
  • 1½ cup water
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • ¼ tsp Himalayan salt
  • 1 clove of garlic (optional)
  • 2 tbsp finely diced onion (optional)


  • Rinse the lentils well until it doesn’t form any more foam
  • Grind the cumin, coriander seeds, and fennel seeds
  • Put the ghee on a skillet and once it liquefies add all the grounded spices. Then cook for a couple of minutes
  • Optionally add garlic and onion and cook for a couple of minutes
  • Add the lentils and stir to coat with the mixture.
  • Add the water and salt. After it comes to a boil, lower the heat, and cover with a lid.
  • Let it cook for about 20 min or until you see the desired consistency

Serve over rice or your grain of preference and sprinkle with freshly chopped coriander leaves. Legumes are not a complete protein and they need to be a accompany by grains or seeds to complement them and improve their protein profile.

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