The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali is a guide to the practice of Yoga. Compiled prior to 400 CE, it is still studied in depth today. In the text, Patañjali lists the Yamas and the Niyamas as the first two steps on the path of cultivating Yoga. Asana, or the postures we usually associate with Yoga classes, is the third step.
If we were to place a seed on a plate, water it and place it in the sun for warmth and energy, even with careful tending, the seed still will not develop far. Without soil to take root in, and draw nutrients from, how is a plant to grow?
The Yamas and Niyamas are the soil for the seed of our Yoga practice. If we do not “plant” our daily Asana practice in the rich and fertile soil of the Yamas and the Niyamas, then true health will not grow out of our efforts.