The Yamas in Everyday Life

I’ve been living separate lives.

Within my yoga practice, there exists a harmonic sanctuary where I am blissfully content and aware of Yamas. In the room, practicing with others or on my own, I am awarded the peaceful mind that is congruent with the principles of Ahimsa, Asetya, Sattya, Brahmacarya and Aparigraha. On the mat I can become focused and controlled in these disciplines, bringing my mind and breath and body together in focus. The challenge of social discipline rarely affects me in the company of fellow yogis and yoginis.

But then I step outside, onto the pavement of the real world, where instantly I begin to check my work email, attempt to cross the road, compete to hail a taxi and negotiate how to plan my time to best accomplish the challenges of that week. Stepping in puddles, getting upset with my taxi driver for taking the long way home, feeling annoyed at the external pressures of life, it’s almost an immediate undoing of all the Yamas I have just practiced. I am reminded that everything is a measure of productivity and results. And once again, I’m critical and judgmental, struggling to find the social discipline the Yamas provide.

A rough definition of “yoga” is “union”, yet here I am, a splintered person, confining my Yama practice to a room of like-minded individuals, on a safely-harbored yoga mat. How have I become a Yama practitioner for merely an hour or so per day? It’s such a convenient life, but also a very unbalanced one.

In a rushing city such as Singapore, which is undergoing such rapid change and improvement, it’s easy to ignore the Yamas. In Aparigraha, or the principle of not coveting things that aren’t essential to one’s life, we face the challenge of walking a fine line between greed and profit making. Another example is Ahimsa; we are instructed to not harm others, but really, isn’t the practice of losing patience with others a form of harming them? And by ignoring the Yamas, we are essentially betraying Sattya, or truthfulness, because we are being totally inconsistent with ourselves.

Admittedly, it’s an everyday challenge to live the Yamas outside of the yoga studio. The pursuit of joining these “separate lives” together in balance will continue to baffle me. However, now equipped with the knowledge of the Yamas, I have a better chance in consummating my separate lives. Talk to me in a few months. Maybe you’ll see a certain sparkle in my eye that’ll secretly tell you my double life is over.