Yamas

Patanjali means sage in Sanskrit. It was probably not one person but several who laid out the 8 limbs of Yoga in the Yoga Sutras. This blog touches on the 5 Yamas, the first limb. The Yamas focus on our ethical standards and integrity. They discuss behavior and suggest how we can conduct ourselves in a consciously ethical way.

The five Yamas are – Ahimsa: nonviolence, Satya: truthfulness, Asteya: non-stealing, Brahmacharya: continence, Aparigraha: non-covetousness.

The first, Ahimsa, is at the core of all the others. It is the practice of kindness, of non-violence to yourself and others. Violence including physical, mental or emotional harm.

Practicing Compassion is your key to unlocking this yama.

The ability to accept events as they are with an open and loving heart; Replacing negative thoughts with feelings of of understanding, kindness, acceptance and love. Do unto others as you would do unto yourself, keeping in mind everyone is fighting their own battles. You just keep on chugging with the positivity train and don’t let anyone hold you down. Give love, get love.

Satya is the yama of truthfulness. By practicing Satya we are speaking in kind, we are honest but not harsh. We create open and loving dialog between one another, in turn creating respect, honor and integrity.

“Truth is God and God is Truth.”, Mahatma Gandhi.

Examples:

  1. When we experience heartache, a difficult situation, what are we learning in this moment? What truths are we learning about ourselves?
  2. Do you deflect your own anger onto others? We all do this, especially those we love unconditionally. But your heart is your truth, your gateway. Your heart wants to heal. Be true to your heart, not the quickness of your tongue. And remember everyone is going through something.
  3. Is someone doing something or saying something that is hurtful to you or others? There are kind ways to tell them the truth. Look back into your heart, and you’ll find the true, best way to communicate.

Asteya means to not take what is not given freely. This could mean a broad range of things but let’s simplify it. In a very literal sense it means not stealing physical items. On a deeper sense, it means not stealing moments from yourself and from others. It means not causing social injustice and oppression. It means overcoming personal greed.

Why do we steal? A lack of faith in ourselves? A lack of confidence? Wanting things we have no need for. There are many reasons. You have to have a conversation with yourself to understand your motives, if this is a challenge you face.

We practice non-stealing, Asteya, by practicing generosity. Giving more than you take. Be honest with yourself in each moment a flight of emotions comes in front of you. On your mat, set your intention but balance it with real expectations. Stay committed. Don’t take the moment, the practice, your soul intention away with distractions and frustrations.

Brahmacharya is having control over our “physical impulses of excess” therefore “attaining knowledge, vigor and increased energy”. By practicing this yama we are breaking our bonds with excess and addiction. Whether  food, sex, drugs, money, power, control, our iphone / screen dependance the temptations to numb out thru these lower chakra desires is very strong and very real. By controlling our desires, measuring our indulgences we build our courage and will. And it’s true. How much stronger, prouder, better do you feel when you quit doing something that brings you ill will?

Let’s practice moderation. Oh yes, so much easier said than done! But if you’re going to indulge in anything, indulge in the practice of Brahmacharya. Indulge in restraint. Practice, practice, practice until it becomes second nature, and have patience with yourself as desire is a strong force of the ego. Your soul craves these natures, but you have to reteach yourself how to obtain them.

Finally we have Aparigraha the virtue of non-possessiveness and non-attachment. There is a fairly common concept in Buddhism that “attachment causes suffering” and it’s true! When we do not focus on our desires (practice brahmacharya instead), on what other’s have and the sense that we somehow “lack”, we are able to see the beauty and gifts right in front of us. By not holding tightly onto anything except love, truth, and generosity we become mentally and emotionally free. This is not to suggest that we should not have goals or aspirations, but rather that we not attach our happiness and our peace to those goals and aspirations. In other words life is about the journey, not the destination!