When we first started learning about the 5 Yamas, I was very lost – it was an abstract concept that I couldn’t really internalize during class. So I took some time for myself outside of class to try and understand these 5 Yamas. While reading up on it online, I came across an article that told me to write down my 5 most negative thoughts, and so I did.
1. Ahimsa – Non-violence (be it mental, physical, spiritual)
I guess it was good that it wasn’t exactly easy coming up with those 5 negative thoughts, but there really is a difference penning things down vs just thinking about it. Anyway, the article mentioned “These thoughts themselves are a form of violence.”
While I wrote them down, some of these negative thoughts that have kept me up at night no longer looked as concerning. It felt a lot easier to let go after seeing them as letters on a paper compared to having them running wild in my mind.
I have always thought that I have been pretty kind to myself, but this small activity revealed the violence that I was exhibiting towards myself. What I’ve reflected on was only the Ahimsa to self part and have not yet explored the Ahimsa to others part. I’m still working on being kinder to myself and others.
2. Satya – Truthfulness
This Yama to me was the simplest to understand yet hardest to do. To self: I can’t say that I have been fully truthful to myself, lies have been said to make myself feel better and sometimes it has been spoken so many times that even I do not know what is the truth anymore. To others: given that sometimes truth can be hurtful, it is an art to balance the truth and other’s feelings (ahimsa). I’m still learning to be truthful.
3. Asteya – Non-stealing
Given that the spirit of Asteya is linked to contentment, I would say that I’m halfway there. At first glance, I would say I’m pretty content with my life, happy to have my family and a bunch of good friends. However, given that I’m always looking to learn new things, picking up new hobbies, not very sure if that defies the spirit of Asteya. In addition, there are still times where I feel envious of others, which is entirely against the nature of Asteya. I’m still learning to let go.
4. Brahmacharya – Energy moderation
This was the hardest Yama to understand. I chose the easiest to understand interpretation of this Yama – to control and direct our energy in the right direction such that we can gain courage and strength and be happier. I understand this as refraining from misusing our energy such that it drains our energy reserve. For example getting too uptight/upset over something beyond my control, like I realized wasting my energy being upset when someone has already inflicted harm is meaningless. I’m still learning about this Yama.
5. Aparigraha – Non-possession
This Yama is really similar to Asteya in my opinion. Not taking more than needed, being contented with what we have. Some of the baby steps that I’m looking at to start embracing this Yama:
- Materially, to re-evaluate and practice minimalism (my room is a cluttered mess)
- Internally, to forgive and let go
Based on my understanding, I see “letting go” as a resounding theme throughout these Yamas. Have to admit that my brain is always filled with random thoughts, so much so that it’s hard to turn down at night (hence it takes me a long time to fall asleep). Going through these Yamas made me realize that I might have been lying to myself that I’ve let go of certain things but subconsciously they still bother me. I do recognize that it’s kind of unhealthy hogging onto these thoughts and definitely a roadblock on my yoga journey, but I also see these roadblocks as being temporary. I am making a promise to myself to clear them!
Thank you for reading and I’ll be off to my pranayama practices.