YAMAS – THE FIRST LIMB OF RAJA YOGA

Compiled by the Sage Patanjali Maharishi in the Yoga Sutras, the Eight Limbs are a progressive series of disciplines that forms the structural framework for yoga practice. Yama is the first limb, suggesting how we should deal with people around us.

Yama means control. The Yamas or restraints (Don’ts) are divided into five moral injunctions, aimed at destroying the lower nature:

1/. Ahimsa or non-violence – compassion for all living things. The word ahimsa literally means not to injure or show cruelty to any creature or any person in any way whatsoever. Ahimsa is, however, more than just lack of violence. It means kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things. Ahimsa implies that in every situation we should adopt a considerate attitude and do no harm.

2/. Satyam or honesty – commitment to truthfulness. Satya means “to speak the truth,” yet it is not always desirable to speak the truth on all occasions, for it could harm someone unnecessarily. We have to consider what we say, how we say it, and in what way it could affect others. If speaking the truth has negative consequences for another, then it is better to say nothing. Deliberate deception, exaggerations, and untruths harm others.

3/. Brahmacharya or moderation in all things – control of all senses. Brahmacharya is used mostly in the sense of abstinence, particularly in relationship to sexual activity. Practicing brahmacharya means that we use our sexual energy to regenerate our connection to our spiritual self. It also means that we don’t use this energy in any way that might harm others

4/. Asteya or non-stealing. Steya means “to steal”; asteya is the opposite-to take nothing that does not belong to us. This also means that if we are in a situation where someone entrusts something to us or confides in us, we do not take advantage of him or her; Do not use something for a different purpose not to the original intention, or beyond the time permitted by its owner.

5/. Aparigraha or non-greed / neutralizing the desire to acquire wealth. Aparigraha means to take only what is necessary, not to act greedy. We should only take what we have earned. If we take more, we are exploiting someone else. Aparigraha also implies letting go of our attachments to things.

Yama should be practiced in word, thought and deed.

Dawn