Lesson 6: How to Work with Spiritual Practices

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Yamas (Restraints): Five Practices for Superconscious Living

  1. Nonviolence
  2. Truthfulness
  3. Nonstealing
  4. Right use of vital force
  5. Nonattachment


Yamas (Restraints) are based on spiritual principle, or spiritual law. Working with them is the way we learn to cooperate with the Infinite by bringing our thoughts, speech and action into harmony with the wholeness of life.

  • From the higher perspective of life as One Reality, spiritual law addresses the connection between our mind and our experience.
  • Our mind is part of Universal Mind, which is responsive to our thoughts, beliefs, emotions—the patterns of our individual mind.
  • Yoga helps us see, and consciously work with that connection.


 Promises of Fulfillment of the Five Restraints:

  • Ahimsa (Nonviolence): freedom from enmity
  • Satya (Truthfulness): power to manifest one’s word
  • Asteya (Nonstealing): experience abundance, true wealth
  • Brahmacharya (Right use of vital force): abundant vitality, energy
  • Aparigraha (Nonattachment): clear insight


Practices of the restraints begins at the outer, material level—and then move to more subtle manifestations of speech, thought, and intention.


The laws of life can teach us to live in harmony with nature and all aspects of life. When we know what the laws are, and conduct ourselves in accord with them, we experience lasting happiness, good health, and prefect harmony.

—Paramahansa Yogananda


For additional information, refer to:
Living the Eternal Way, p 97-134


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Live the Eternal Way

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  1. Dear Yogacharya, This is such a powerful lesson. I appreciate that your delivery is, as always, so clear and holds the light of potential for me to see it as real in my life. It’s like a favorite recipe…I look forward to replaying this one many times to feel it’s nourishment. 🙂

  2. Hello Yogacharya O’Brian,

    I know this question will probably seem… well. I’m not sure. But over the past years we have had problems with rats and mice coming a bit too frequently into our home haha I am not sure how to solve this problem, I think the roof may have something to do with it. I am wondering, what would you do if your house became infested with rodents? What would someone well practiced in harmlessness do, I guess I am wondering. I know this might sound silly. But. It is difficult to get rid of rats, and it is very difficult to live with them haha

    I hope this question is okay.

    Thank you.


  3. Hello dear Ashlyn,
    This is a question most everyone has to grapple with as we try our best to cultivate nonviolence. There is a story in Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi about a lesson he received from his wise guru, Sri Yukteswar. Yogananda was struggling to avoid swatting a mosquito that was buzzing around him during his meditation. Sri Yukteswar remarked that he might as well have done it, meaning so absorbed was his mind in the desire to be rid of the mosquito. He concluded by advising Yogananda that “The principle of ahimsa, is more to do with the removal of the desire to kill. The world is inconveniently arranged for a literal practice of ahimsa. Man may be compelled to exterminate harmful creatures. But he is not under any compulsion to feel anger or animosity towards them.” I find this to be sage advice. In order to live in our homes (or even ashrams) without the invasion of mice, rats, ants, flies, etc, we sometimes have to kill them. But first, we do everything we can to deter their presence. We cover holes where they get in, or clean countertops, avoiding anything that would attract or make it easy for them. If all else fails, we regretfully settle on some form of extinction, which we do prayerfully and not with hatred.

    • Thank you so much for your response. I think of that story a lot actually, like every time I see a spider 🙂 Thank you for helping to clarify it for me and help me to understand it better. I think that in the past I have become angry at the little creatures after trying and failing at getting rid of them by nonviolent means, angry because I know what it means will happen next! But I understand better now.

      Thank you.

  4. I love this lesson! It is so relevant and and refreshing every time I hear it. Your words present these sacred teachings in such a way that I feel they are delivered directly to my Soul. Thank you for your infinite blessings through your teachings and your love.

  5. This course is changing my life for the better, and I am taking it alongside a class on trauma with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk as I consider transitioning from a career in education to one in the mental/emotional/spiritual health field.

    I have noticed much overlap between my current studies in neuroscience and Kriya yoga, particularly with regards to the Citta, and I am feeling into my new role and next steps. Would you mind sharing any resources/stories of which you are aware of the overlap between these two disciplines, please?

    For instance, one of my clients meditates and has an active spiritual practice and still notices that she is more reactive than she would like to be. I see your post about reactivity dissolving with disciplined practice and time, but she is thinking her shift may be due to hormonal changes in the body. I wonder what the ancients – and current teachers – have to say about how the body’s changes that are largely out of our control impact the mind and mental field? I have an adolescent child and wonder the same for him. I believe these practices may just be that much more important during these times of hormonal change, but is more support needed? I also wonder if there are any spiritual teachings of which you are aware that help survivors of trauma – both young and old. Lots of questions. Thank you so much!

    • Greetings! So happy to hear about your positive experience with the course. There are many resources for exploring yoga and neuroscience. A few that come immediately to mind are our podcasts on the Yoga Hour. You can find some specific episodes there that may be of interest such as Healing from Anxiety and Stop Reacting to Regain Your Power. You can find descriptions of the episodes and guests at http://www.TheYogaHour.com I would also recommend Eddie Stern’s book One Simple Thing: A New Look at the Science of Yoga (I interviewed him on the Yoga Hour, so you can find that episode on the site as well). There is a current article by him on Yoga and Human Biology in the recent issue of Hinduism Today magazine which you can read for free online at: http://www.HinduismToday.com You can also take a look at resources at IAYT.org (website of the International Association of Yoga Therapists). All the best to you!

    • Thank you for your post addressing neurosciences, body, mind, and spiritual practice. Your questions really spoke to my daily inquiries in my professional practice as an integrative healthcare practitioner. Addressing an integration of health, neurosciences, functional medicine, movement and bodywork is my daily inquiry and attention. It is often all-encompassing yet I am finding the subtle aspects of our health and day can be observed thru the lens of yoga. Thru some steps introduced at CSE, a powerful shift is occurring: I am learning the power of taking small steps, the possibilities when including ‘the pause’ and noticing ‘grace’. To bring this rhythm into daily life and into patient care is powerful. A wonderful discovery process. Such a gift. 🙏

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