Yamas

Yamas are a form of moral commandments or goals within Hinduism, and specifically Raja Yoga.  Yama is a code of conduct for living that will help bring a compassionate death to the ego or “the lower self”.  The Yamas comprise the ‘shall-not-do’ list in regards to our interaction with the external world and help us develop the more profound qualities of our humanity.

Ten Yamas are listed as ‘the restraints’ in numerous scriptures including the Shandilya, Varaha Upanishads, and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Gorakshanatha.  Patanjali lists only five yamas in his Yoga Sutras.

The Ten Traditional Yamas are;

1)  Ahimsa: Nonviolence, harmlessness, the not causing of pain to any living creature in thought, word, or deed at any time.  This is the main yama, the other nine are there in support of is accomplishment.

2)  Satya: Truthfulness in word and thought. Absence of falsehood

3)  Asteya: Non-stealing, non-coveting

4)  Brahmacharya: Divine conduct, continence

5)  Kshama: Patience, releasing time, functioning in the present

6)  Dhriti: Steadfastness, over-coming non-perseverance, fear and indecision

7)  Daya: Compassion, conquering callous, cruel and insensitive feelings toward all beings

8)  Arjava: Honesty, straightforwardness, renouncing deception and wrongdoing

9)  Mitahara: Moderate appetite, neither eating too much or too little

10)Shaucha: Purity, avoidance of impurity in mind, body and speech (Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra lists Shaucha as the first of the Niyamas)

The Five Yamas of Patanjali are;

1.   Ahimsa

2.   Satya

3.   Asteya

4.   Brahmacharya

5.   Aparigraha (absence of avarice)

As a yoga teacher you have a choice to teach the whole of yoga as delineated in the Yoga Sutra’s or we can simply focus on the physical practice of asana. If we choose to teach the whole of yoga the first limb of the eightfold path is the yamas. Perhaps the best way to teach the yamas is to live them.  If we practice them in our actions and embody them in our manner we become role models for our students.