2.30 – The five restraints (yamas) are: non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, right use of life-energies, and non-attachment.

अहिंसासत्यास्तेय ब्रह्मचर्यापरिग्रहाः यमाः ॥३०॥

ahimsa satya asteya brahmacharya aparigraha yama

  • ahimsa – non-harming; nonviolence
  • satya – truthfulness; authentic
  • asteya – non-stealing
  • brahmacharya – right use of life-energies; chastity; walking (charya) in the awareness of the Divine (Brahman); moving (charya) toward the Divine (Brahman); the path (charya) toward Brahman
  • aparigraha – nonattachment; renunciation
  • yama – restraints; reins; self-control; avoiding destructive behaviors

2.31 – The five restraints are universal. They are a great vow which applies to all stages of life, times, places and circumstances.

जातिदेशकालसमयानवच्छिन्नाः सार्वभौमामहाव्रतम् ॥३१॥

jati desha kala samaya anavachchhinnah sarva-bhaumah maha-vratam

  • jati – type of birth; genus; lineage; family
  • desha – place; region; location
  • kala – time
  • samaya – circumstance; at the time
  • anavachchhinnah – not separated; unmodified; unlimited
  • sarva-bhaumah – universal; comprising the whole world
  • maha-vratam – great vow

2.32 – The five observances (niyamas) are: purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-reflection, and surrender to Awareness.

शौच संतोष तपः स्वाध्यायेश्वरप्रणिधानानि नियमाः ॥३२॥

shaucha santosha tapah svadhyaya ishvara-pranidhana niyamah

  • shaucha – purity; purification; cleanliness
  • santosha – contentment
  • tapah – self-discipline; heat; fire; warmth; austerity
  • svadhyaya – self-study; self-reflection; to recite; repeated recitation; recitation of sacred texts; recitation of mantras
  • ishvara-pranidhana – surrender to Awareness; devotion to God
  • niyamah – observances; vows; precepts; engaging in life-enhancing behaviors

2.33 – When disturbed by destructive thoughts and emotions, contemplate and cultivate their opposites.

वितर्कबाधने प्रतिपक्षभावनम् ॥३३॥

vitarka badhane pratipaksha bhavanam

  • vitarka – gross thought; reasoning; doubts; false thinking; destructive thinking
  • badhane – disturbed by; harassed by; opposed by
  • pratipaksha – opposites; opposition; obstacles
  • bhavanam – contemplation; dwelling upon; absorption in; building; developing; cultivating

2.34 – Destructive thoughts and actions such as harmfulness, etc., result in endless suffering and ignorance. This is true whether we carry out those actions, cause them to be carried out by others, or approve of them when done by others. Those destructive thoughts and actions may be preceded by greed, anger, or confusion, and they may be mild, moderate, or extreme. For this reason, the opposite qualities should be contemplated and cultivated.

वितर्का हिंसादयः कृतकारितानुमोदिता लोभक्रोधमोहापूर्वका मृदुमध्य अधिमात्रा दुःखाज्ञानानन्तफला इति प्रतिपक्षभावनम् ॥३४॥

vitarkah himsa adayah krita karita anumoditah lobha krodha moha purvakah mridu madhya adhimatrah dukha ajnana ananta phala iti pratipaksha bhavanam

  • vitarkah – gross thought; reasoning; doubts; false thinking; destructive thinking
  • himsa – harm; injury
  • adayah – along with; etc
  • krita – performance of action; accomplished; fulfilled
  • karita – caused to be done; effected
  • anumoditah – approved; applauded; accepted
  • lobha – greed; covetousness; strong desire
  • krodha – anger
  • moha – confusion; delusion; bewitchment
  • purvakah – prior; previous; former time; preceded by
  • mridu – mild; weak; soft
  • madhya – moderate; middle; medium
  • adhimatrah – intensive; excelling; above measure; extreme
  • dukha – suffering; misery; grief; distress; pain; unease
  • ajnana – ignorant; unconscious; unwise
  • ananta – eternal; endless
  • phala – fruit; effect; result
  • iti – thus
  • pratipaksha – opposites; opposition; obstacles
  • bhavanam – contemplation; dwelling upon; absorption in; building; developing; cultivating

Commentary on Sutras 2.30—2.34:

Some have described the five restraints (yamas) and observances (niyamas) as ethical guidelines akin to the Bible’s ten commandments. But they are much more than a list of rules.

The yamas and niyamas are ways of aligning one’s entire life toward the expansion of consciousness and then learning to live from that higher state. They are universal principles echoed repeatedly in the sacred texts of various religions and spiritual traditions.

As we develop these values, sattva guna becomes active and dominant in our lives. Dormant forces are aroused, and we become uplifted, inspired, and vitalized.

Patanjali gives us a powerful method for working with them in Sutra 2.33, where he advises us to contemplate and cultivate the opposites of our destructive tendencies. We focus on the converse, positive quality rather than attempting to push away the negative.

For example, if we feel angry and want to lash out with violent words or actions, we can meditate on harmlessness, filling our consciousness with that quality. Or, when we notice ourselves lusting after an object of the senses, we can contemplate non-attachment.

This practice can alter our entire energy field and overall dynamic. We shift from an outer-reactive state into one that is inner-directed and in alignment with our higher purpose.

Working in this way changes the direction and quality of our lives. We have less drama, fewer problems, and less chaos. And therefore, we have more time and energy to devote to our practice.