The First Limb of Yoga The Yamas
The Yamas refer to restraint concerning the external world and apply it to all living things. There are five Yamas:
Ahimsa, or “non- violence.”
Satya, meaning “right communication.”
Asteya, meaning “non- stealing.”
Brahmacharya, which refers to “moderation in all our actions,” and
Aparigraha, meaning “non greediness.”
The Yamas are ethical guidelines to assist in how we interact with the outside world. They are practices that need to be integrated to live a yogic lifestyle fully.
Ahimsa refers to harmlessness or non-violence towards others and ourselves. We practice this Yama when caring, compassionate, considerate, and showing love for all creation. We must try to accept others for who they are as well as ourselves. This applies not only in the physical sense but also to our thoughts and language. It includes not being hurtful through our words as well as not directing anger towards others. We should practice non-judgment and avoid speaking ill of others; this has not been gossiped. As we focus on practicing Ahimsa, we will be avoiding harsh or rude language, lying or hurting someone’s feelings, or being discourteous. Each day we need to be conscious about our actions and make sure that we are always coming from a place of kindness.
Satya refers to truthfulness and honesty. This limb is not always an easy task to practice, and many of us struggle with it; however, living with a sense of trust for others and ourselves is of great importance. This involves setting aside our egos, which control our thoughts and actions. Your yogic practice will grow more profound if you can have a continued awareness of honesty in the decisions you make in your daily lives. This could refer to how you work through a challenging posture, how you work in your community or job setting, or how you interact with others.
Asteya refers to non-stealing, which includes more than just material items. It involves not taking what is not offered to us, including time, energy, feelings, thoughts, or ideas. Searching outside ourselves will not bring contentment; happiness must come from within. For example, so often, we seek happiness through relationships. Often we can end up trying to control people and circumstances to feel happy and avoid pain. Practicing asteya requires letting go of control or wanting. We need to accept what is and watch the space that arises when coming from that place. We need to learn to be content with what comes our way and not dwell on what others have or don’t have. Accumulating possessions in abundance is another aspect of asteya. We need to focus on keeping only what we need by curbing our desires and sharing with others. Our mind’s actions can be more easily controlled through our yoga practice, and we can more easily practice asteya in our daily lives.
“Desire and want is the root cause for stealing.”
– Swami Sivananda
Brahmacharya refers to the wise use of our energy, particularly sexual life. It involves practicing non-attachment and restraining from indulgence. We need to control our senses and cravings and become more aware of inner fulfillment. We must honor our energies. A loving relationship allows us to experience a heightened connection with our partner. This exchange of power is a sacred experience to be enjoyed and honoured. Brahmachara can also apply to moderation. We need to control our impulses for excess, whether for shopping, food, sex, alcohol, drugs, or TV. Freeing yourself of obsession creates energy available for spiritual growth, balance, and self-realization. Wasting our time and energy on addictions takes us away from our paths and goals.
Aparigraha refers to unselfishness and freedom from hoarding. It involves simplifying our lives and not being greedy. This principle stems from our fear of not having or being enough. It requires us to reflect on what we need and let go of what we no longer need, including relationships. With increased awareness, we can move away from attachment and learn to give with abundance. An attitude of non-possessiveness helps shift our relationship to both material things and the earth. Aparigrha also refers to possession of ideas, people or places, and includes anything we hold on to. This intention of clinging is a barrier to our freedom and personal growth.
In summary, the Yamas are the foundation for skilful living, which allows us to take ownership of our lives and direct them towards fulfilment. By focusing on the Yamas, we are able to choose our attitude, thoughts, and actions in a positive manner. The Yamas are a fundamental part of our yogic journey. They are the foundation of our practice, without which our spiritual journey cannot progress. Initially, many people begin practicing yoga for physical exercise. Through training, students come to see the profound spiritual effects yoga can have on their lives. To establish spiritual effects, embed them within our consciousness needs to be grounded in ethical behaviour. Our practice of the mat needs to extend into the other yoga limbs, beginning with the Yamas. For optimal growth, every limb of yoga must be practiced sincerely to direct ourselves to health, harmony, peace, and happiness.