The Yamas of Yoga

When I walk in and out of the yoga classroom everyday, I see the word “Yama” printed on the door and it always reminds me of the way I should behave, think and act, morally and ethically. In Paalu’s words, it is “how you deal with yourself in reference to the outside world.” This is the first of the Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga written by Patanjali Maharishi.

 

Ahimsa is the first yama, meaning non-violence. The word “Himsa” means violence and by adding the “A” in front to form ahimsa, it reverses the meaning. This includes every level of non-violence from physical and verbal to emotional and mental towards other and yourself. For this to happen, all aggressions, judgments and hostilities must be replaces with love, acceptance and kindness.

 

Satya means truthfulness, originality and being genuine. Lies have always been a natural solution to get one out of difficult situations and to avoid displeasing another person and potentially causing himsa. However, when one is firmly rooted in telling the truth naturally, he will get the highest level of respect and would not lose so much energy in the telling of lies.

 

Asteya means non-stealing. It is the idea of not stealing yourself from your intention. We are easily distracted from our intention from things like jealousy and greed. The need for things that one does not possess often consumes one’s mind. This affects the performance of the physical body and mind. The practice of asteya means that one must not take or crave anything that is not freely given to them. This will ultimately lead to the gift of valuable material and non-material things that can be used for enlightenment.

 

Brahmacharya is to have god-like qualities. It is to be responsible in your behavior whether it is in abstinence of sexual activity or the way one behaves towards others. This will help a person to stick to their intention and goal. Sexual abstinence has to occur to become god-like because the need for sexual activity has the potential to make one angry, violent and jealous. When one reaches brahmacharya, such desires are engulfed by courage, strength and the gain in energy.

 

Aparigraha means non-possessiveness. It is based around the idea that having as many things that one can get their hands on, is unnecessary. A person, who has aparigraha, does not treat things like a give and take transaction. The constant need to gain more things diverts one from their true self and intentions. When one does not have the desire to constantly have more, their energy will begin to turn inwards, which helps one to stay rooted to their intention.

 

In conclusion, by following the yamas of yoga, you will be able to reduce your karma, prevent you from draining your energy by wasting it on unnecessary thoughts and behaviors (eg. violence and lies) and in general, you will be able to live a much happier and healthier life.

 

Aditi Timbadia