Exploring the Yamas

Yamas form one of the eight limbs of yoga.  The best way I like to describe them, is the ‘guidelines’ that we should follow in our practice, to enable us to behave morally and ethically. Yamas can sometime get lost amongst the popularity of asanas, but they form a valuable part of finding true yogic strength, both on and off the mat.

  1. Ahimsa – Ahimsa translates to ‘non-harming’ or ‘non-violence’ and extends to physical, mental and emotional violence. You may be mistaken in thinking that violence applies only to others, but in fact, one of the ways we can practice ahimsa is to be non-harming towards ourselves. So often, we are too hard on ourselves, become frustrated or angry. We should try to allow ourselves time to heal and live without criticism or judgment.
  2. Satya – Truthfulness that extends to our words, our thoughts, our actions and everyone & everything around us. Living honestly means to have respect and integrity both internally and externally. Be truthful and your practice will be free form burden, allowing it grow in the spaces you create within.
  3. Asteya – Described as not taking what is not freely given, or ‘non-stealing’, Asteya is not as straightforward as it may seem. Whilst physical theft may be easy to define, stealing in the emotional or societal sense can be more difficult to quantify. We should steer away from asking too much from others or ourselves and believe that we are enough, have enough and give enough. Asteya encourages generosity and once we reach the place where we can be truly accepting, our practice becomes enlightened.
  4. Brahmacharya – The translation for brahmacharya is sometimes debated, however in literal terms it means ‘behavior which leads to Brahman’ or ‘The Creator’. By practicing this yama, you will embrace balance and proper use of energy, directing it away from external factors, practicing moderation and using our energy in a balanced way to find a higher purpose.
  5. Aparigraha – The idea of ‘non-possessiveness’ or ‘non-attachment’ has become somewhat lost in the modern society, however Aparigraha teaches us to only take what we need and let go of what we do not. This can apply to material possessions as well as our thoughts and emotions. Once we let go of what is weighing us down, we are able to see our true self .

In practical terms, the Yamas support us to be conscious and conserve energy to continue the yogic path; they allow us to live a full life and have true awareness of ourselves and our relationships.