Yoga Lingo

Eight Limbs of Yoga - Yamas Explained

Posted on 2018-09-15

The Role of the Yamas in Yoga: A Beginner's Guide to the Eight Limbs

Amongst the eight limbs of yoga, yamas are the first. They give spiritual, ethical, and moral guidelines for a person who wants to achieve balance, health, and well-being that can help her to achieve spiritual development. In his yoga philosophy, Patanjali described the Yamas as strong, universal, and with great vows. He further said that yogis should practice them on all levels and incorporate them into their yoga poses. That is, through words, actions, and thoughts. These assist us in cleansing our nature and developing a happier and healthier society.

Many yoga teachers emphasize the five yamas during yoga practices since they promote ethical living and give the yogis moral codes to follow daily.

According to the yoga sutras of Patanjali, Yamas are not restricted to one place, time, or class. They are suitable for your yoga therapy, and you can practice them anywhere. Primarily, yamas help us to be aware of the world surrounding us and how we interact with it. Let’s look at the five yamas and how we can practice them.

Ahimsa – Non-Violence

This is the highest-ranking Yama, which means genuine kindness towards people and yourself. Ahimsa helps you not to harm yourself or other living creatures. It emphasizes the practice of non-violence or non-harming. Ahimsa gives you the key to maintaining a tranquil inner life and harmonious relationships.

This Yama comes naturally through regular practices of yoga. As you practice this Yama, you become more aware of your true nature's peaceful and long-lasting core. It also inspires you to prevent harm to yourself and the people around you. Ahimsa will help you recognize that the inner self in other people is similar to your inner self, and you do not wish to harm anyone.

  • Ahimsa practice tip: always practice being kind, forgiving, and accepting of others and yourself. By embracing ahimsa fully, you get a compelling and deep-seated inner confidence.

A more in-depth post about Ahimsa here

Satya – Truthfulness

Satya encourages us to speak the truth and always to live a “truthful life.” This Yama encourages us to be honest with ourselves and those around us. By its nature, the truth can be “terrifying,” and it often leads us to think that we might hurt our friends by being truthful. However, being untruthful can cause more harm to our loved ones and us. Satya helps us to learn how to deliver the truth with compassion and care.

  • Satya practice tip: learn to identify the fears and negative feelings that force you to twist reality. When you understand and process these fears, you realign your actions, speech, and thoughts with truth. This will always happen as you focus on your desires and needs.

A more in-depth post about Satya here

Asteya – Non-Stealing

“Stealing” is acquiring anything that is not given to you freely, and this does not imply stealing possessions or money from someone else. However, how frequently do you “steal” someone else's time or try to persuade them to do things they are uncomfortable doing? Do you ask for a person’s attention when they don’t want to give it freely to you?

Asteya helps nurture the feeling of abundance in our lives and realize that we have everything we need. As a result, it makes us appreciate our things and avoid taking what doesn’t belong to us.

  • Asteya practice tip: mainly, the desire to steal comes from unhappiness, envy, and incompleteness. However, the solution is to give whenever you get the opportunity. Give time, give money, and provide food. Because wealth is a state of mind, you start feeling as wealthy as you give. Selfless giving brings inner wealth, which can lead to our outer wealth.

Read more about Asteya here.

Brahmacharya – Sense of Control

This Yama is primarily interested in abstinence from sexual activities or celibacy. This means that we should continuously monitor how we utilize our sexual energy, and we should never use our sexual energy to harm others or ourselves.

  • Brahmacharya practice tip: Choose wisely the magazines and books you read, the friends you hang around, and the movies you watch. These can assist you in conserving your energy and keep your body and mind dynamic and focused. This Yama will help you to be moderate in all sexual activities. As a result, you abstain from dwelling on them and remain faithful and committed to one person.

Read more in-depth about Brahmacharya here. 

Aparigraha – Non-Coveting

Holding on to things prevents you from being free. It doesn't mean material possessions only. But it also means “holding” on to concepts and ideas that you have about life, yourself and your personality, and the events in your daily life.

Realizing that your life develops and changes regularly, you will learn how to develop and improve. Then you will be able to flow freely with life. Aparigraha teaches you to trust the universe to give you whatever you need.

  • Aparigraha practice tip: scrutinize your inclinations towards possessiveness. Is it that you always take care of something you possess that belongs to another person? Do you obtain more than you need? Practicing non-possessiveness assists you in examining your assumptions. This, in turn, guides you to a healthy relationship with other people.

Practicing the yamas daily can help you achieve peace and balance of mind. These yamas are the perfect foundation for a peaceful and long-lasting foundation with your true self and those around you. So, live the yamas and have a peaceful and meaningful life.

This is the first of eight limbs of yoga explained in this Yogateket-wiki series. Next will be about the Niamas. Do you want an overview of the limbs? Check out The 8 Limbs Of Yoga Explained

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