The first of the Eight Limbs of Ashtanga (or Raja) Yoga is the Yamas. The word Yama in Sanskrit translates in to English loosely to mean Restraint. Thus the first Limb of the practice of Ashtanga is to restraint in how you deal with the world outside of yourself. There are five Yamas, which are outlined below:
Ahimsa – Non-violence
Violence is not always literal, and so this must not be taken literally and in the traditional interpretation of the word. We can be violent in not taking action when we see or hear brutality and negativity in others, or push our emotions onto another. Forcing your opinion onto someone else is violent in the way you project your idea or lifestyle on another and expect them to change accordingly. Telling someone to believe something, act or speak a certain way, or go without something they personally need or desire is also violent. When we practice Ahimsa we acknowledge pain and suffering, desires and needs, opinions and beliefs. We appreciate the way things vary and where change and assistance are asked from you, the return is gentle and progress in to a new path is felt on a deeper level where it can be acknowledged fully.
Satya – Truthfulness
Lying comes as second nature to many people, not only lying to others but also lying to ourselves. Lying cannot be considered as just speaking the truth to others, but also being truthful in your actions. There is no way you can successfully show honesty towards others, if you are actions are filled with deceit and lies. By being truthful, we encourage it in those around us. By being truthful within your mind you are building a stronger identity for others to appreciate your actions.
Brahmacharya – Chastity
Chastity is not to ignore your sexual urges. Chastity is only to allow that you are not controlled and ruled by these urges. We are animals with base instincts to be secure, fed, watered and reproduce. When we indulge in our base instincts regularly we begin to be overcome by them and lose some control of how we manage the rest of our lives. The practice of Bramacharya is the practice of acknowledging that we have these urges and with-holding our minds from being taken over with the drive to fulfill these needs to a point where our Mind and Soul cannot function.
Asteya – Not Coveting
In life we should be at peace with the possessions and relationships that we create, attain and receive without desiring instead the relationships, possessions and successes of others around us. The ideal of what we need and what we are lacking is a creation of doubt and unhappiness within our minds. Peace and contentment will not be achieved while longing exists outside of our being for something that we do not have. It is so easy to miss life this way, and happiness for the success of another cannot be genuinely expressed whilst you feel this jealousy.
Aparigraha – Without greed
The giving of something, whether it is a physical item, mental or emotional stimulation or simply some time and effort, without an expectation of anything in return, helps enrich the soul. True Aparigraha is the act of giving, not because we judge we are better than another so ‘it is our duty to help’, instead we give for the sake of giving and the way it makes ourselves feel. If the person in the supermarket is a little short of their change and you can provide this change, simply do. Don’t think or analyse or ignore. This is how we abstain from greed.