Raja Yoga- Yama

When I was first introduced to the eight limbs of raja yoga/ashtanga yoga in class, I found that the first limb, Yama, seems to be similar to the Ten Commandments. So I went to read up more about it.
Yama refers to the disappearance of all suppression. It describes five moral restrains that governs our interactions with other and they are Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha.

  1. Ahimsa- “Non-violence”

A person who is firmly established in non-violence, all hostilities towards another will completely disappear, and suddenly love arises from the abandonment of violence. From a Christian perspective, this yama resonates strongly with Jesus’s greatest commandment- to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus did not harbor any hate or grudges on those who had betrayed him, yet He showed forgiveness. He repeatedly emphasized the need to forgive people, and to do good to everyone.

  1. Satya- “Truthfulness”

A person who firmly established in truthfulness, he will be living truth, he will be walking with truth and all actions will be aligned to truth. Being truthful in all things is of paramount importance in yoga but it must be balanced with Ahimsa. The commandment “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” mirrors Satya.

  1. Asteya- “Non-stealing, non-covertedness”

When a person is completely established in non-theft of other possessions, all treasures and ornaments appear and present itself to the person. This mirrors the commandment “You shall not steal” and “You shall not covet what belongs to your neighbour’s”.

  1. Brahmacharya- “Moderation”

Brahmacharya states that when we have control over our physical impulses of excess, we attain knowledge, vigor and increased energy. By practicing Brahmacharya, we can achieve balance, creating moderation in our daily activities. From a Christian perspective, the seventh commandment “You shall not commit adultery” doesn’t exactly mirror this. However, the commandment encompasses the human sexuality. The virtue of chastity comes under the fundamental virtue of abstinence and seeks to moderate the passions and appetites of the senses with reasons.

  1. Aparigraha- “Non-possessiveness”

The word “parigraha” is greed rooted in jealousy. Aparigraha encourages a simple and modest lifestyle. Being established in non-possessiveness, all the possibilities of how, why, where and when about the various existences are revealed to you. When you are not possessive of the body and mind, you comply with the present. Similarly, this mirrors the commandment “You shall not covet whatever that belongs to your neighbor”. The parable of the rich fool also underlines the danger of putting material possessions over God.
 
Happy Good Friday
Amanda
200 hours YTT Jan weekends

Yamas

Yamas

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.

The Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga: Yamas or Restraints (Number 3)

The first limb of Raja yoga is a set of Yamas or restraints. These can be seen as a form of guidance to the student to help them live a more focused and fruitful life. The third Yama is called Asteya, which is a guide to restrain from acts of theft or covetedness and refrain from jealousy. Asteya, meaning “do not steal” is a very wide ranging statement. We all think of stealing as maybe going into a shop and taking goods without payment or holding up a bank and taking money which isn’t ours. However, Asteya can come into much more day-to-day aspects of our lives and in ways we might not have thought about previously. Let’s look at some examples of how this can be seen. As an example, we are due to meet with a good friend and we have set a time of 6pm to meet at a location in town. According to Asteya we should do our utmost to be on time for this meeting as to be late is to be stealing time from our friend. In this instance stealing time results from wasting their time by not being punctual and having them doing nothing while they wait for us. Another area we can think about is by stealing our environment – a phrase that is hard to imagine but by polution and fouling up of our natural environment we are effectively stealing it from others to enjoy or from the natural inhabitants to live and survive. So, as we can see Asteya can guide us to prevent loss of many things that would otherwise be “stolen” from their owners. By and large, Asteya helps us to be respectful and courteous to our natural habitat and environment.

Following the yamas and niyamas

The eight limbs are termed as such because of their equal importance. Referring to each pathway as a ‘limb’ signifies each stages importance in becoming a whole enlightened being. The purpose of living these eight limbs is to achieve Yoga as a state of being.
In the west people often begin with the third limb and practice asanas first, however it is more desirable to live all the yamas and niyamas prior to physical practice to purify the mind in preparation for asanas and meditation.  The objective is not to suppress the desire to oppose the yamas and niyamas, but to stop the desire for such things. Only when the mind is pure can it be controlled and focused.
The yamas are considered ‘moral guidelines’, the word ‘restraint is not desirable as it suggests repression of traits which may bubble under the surface and eventually explode outwards.  The yamas are also reminiscent of the guidelines we were taught as children, such as don’t tell lies, don’t hurt others, don’t steal etc. indicating the desire to return to a state of innocence that we had when we were young, before we were tarnished by Maya. Observance of these Yamas is from the navel (site of the Manipura Chakra) and help to attain a healthy mind and body and one must follow them without a desire for any end goals.
The five Yamas are:
a. Ahimsa: Non violence, non injury (this includes harm to ones self)
b. Satya: Truthfulness, non telling of lies. One must be careful not to always speak the truth as this can have a very powerful and directional effect
c. Brahmacharya: Chastity, sublimation of sexual energy. Harness this energy for creativity and discovery
d. Asteya: Non stealing, non covetedness, lack of jealousy
e. Aparigraha: Non acceptance of gifts or bribes. Observance of this yama gives you knowledge of past and future lives folding in front of you
The niyamas are actions you take in relation to yourself, and together with the yamas form a person of high moral character and ethics. Observation of all the yamas and niyamas purify and uplift the mind in preparation for deep meditation.
The five niyama are:
a.   Saucha: purity (both internal and external, of the body and mind), this Niyama gives a person strong senses and joyful awareness
b.   Santosha: Contentment in all things
c.   Tapas: Auserity, a burning enthusiasm in everything you do, burns away impurities
d.   Swadyhyaya: Study of religious scripture (and self study) allows one to commune with a desired deity
e .  Ishwara-pranidha: Worship of the lord, surrender of the ego. This final niyama brings you Samadhi
 
Regardless of the practice of yoga or the adoption of a religion, following the guidelines of the yamas and niyamas will help every one of us to lead better lives and improve the lives of those around us. My personal aim is to strive everyday to become a better person and let go of my negative qualities in the hope I will improve myself each day.
 

Yamas

The Yamas and Niyamas form the first two “limbs” of the eight limbs of Raja Yoga.  They are the restraints and observances that are evident in our behavior and reflect our attitudes about ourselves.  They are a fundamental part of “yogic lifestyle.”
The yamas are the “restraints”.  It is important to note that one must restrain without suppression (rather covert the energy to something positive).  Suppression will lead to frustration and will have a negative effect on the mind as evident in the behavior.  For example, if I tell myself I cannot eat chocolate I will just want it more and more till I eventually eat it and probably too much!  This behavior may not be very destructive in itself, but my attitude is changed for the worst.  I will suffer feelings of loss of control, poor confidence and will mentally feel failure.  A better approach would be to ask myself why I am desiring the chocolate and work from the inside out.  This will take time but the result will be much better.  Pranayama, concentration and meditation would all be useful tools to help me change my behavior.
The yamas include:
1. Ahimsa–Non-violence in both thoughts and actions.  This includes thoughts and attitudes about oneself!  This is the reason yogis are vegetarians and refrain from eating an animal that must be killed for the purpose of consumption.
2.  Satya–Truthfulness.  This is reflected behaviorally in what we say–not telling lies and being pure in our speech.  If our speech is not pure, the mind will not be pure.
3.  Brahmacharya–sublimation of sexual energy.  This not only refers to sex itself but also to lust.  Wanting something so badly that it consumes our thoughts and drives our behavior will not lead to a calm mind.
4.  Asteya–non-stealing, lack of jealousy.  This means we are not to be distracted by what we don’t have.  Covetousness only leads to impure thoughts and discontent.  Being “non-stealing” means that if we want something it must come from pure motive and hard work.
5.  Aparigraha–non accepting of gifts or bribes.  This has to do with our motives.  Motives must be pure–if I am only acting to recieve some reward in return it is not pure and will hind my mind.  This includes self-bribery–“if I eat healthy all week I will buy myself some new shoes.”
The Yamas/restraints are the first step to purifying our minds and transforming ourselves through the practice of yoga.  I feel it is important to remember that it is a process and we must patiently transform from the inside out.  With a clear conscience and pure thoughts we will begin the pathway to peace.  Practicing the yamas will help anyone enjoy a better lifestyle whether or not they choose to continue further the practice of yoga.

Aparigraha – De-clutter and be liberated

Just as we need to still and clear our minds for meditation and ultimately enlightenment, a similar sense of freedom and wellbeing may be achieved by de-cluttering our homes and living quarters.
Personally I have become a self proclaimed expert at de-cluttering only because I have been compelled to go through the process by moving abroad many times. By moving countries one is faced with a situation of having to make a decision on every single item of one’s possession; whether to take, give away or dispose. This tedious process has left an indelible reminder in my mind about the ‘sins’ of accumulation and hoarding.
It is very difficult to shed these as I believe in most of us there is the seed of fear of separation from an article for a host of reasons: sentimental value, fear of letting go in case it is needed at a latter date or it could be that we are consumed by consumerism and need to buy more and more.
Any Feng Shui book will begin by advising the reader to de-clutter. Having cupboards and rooms full of things and clothes that one hardly uses or thinks that he/she might become useful in the future is like having weights round one’s ankles whilst trying to walk. This excess baggage hinders energy flow in a room apart from the fact that it attracts dust and housework becomes more laborious.
How can we de-clutter?
To start with we should question ourselves every time when we are shopping especially of non-consumables. Do we need this item so much that it deserves a place in our home? exercise machines and massage chairs are typical examples of large items often bought with the best intentions but often left in corners to gather dust.
Charities are hungry for all sorts of items and there are clothes and shoe banks all around town. Some charities will even collect large items of furniture
Have a garage sale or even sell unwanted items on the internet
When you hear that a friend or a family member is in need of something and you happen to have two of or one that is not used then take the opportunity to give. Giving is good for the soul!
Recycling is also an option. Unused or obsolete hardware and printers are often required for their parts or indeed sent abroad to third world countries to be recycled.
If you can’t be bothered with any of the above, then just bin the unwanted excess baggage. The municipal dump will sort things out for re-cycling.
Remember Aparigraha? One of the Yamas of Patanjali.  ‘Graha’ means “to grasp” and ‘pari’ means “things”. Aparigraha means “not grasping things” or non-possessiveness or non-hoarding.
A yogic maxim says, “All the things in the world are yours to use, but not to own.”
Whenever we become possessive, we are in turn possessed, anxiously holding onto our things and grasping for more. But when we make good use of the possessions that come to us and enjoy them without emotionally dependent on them then they do not wield power over us. We will be able to let go more easily.
Try letting go of stuff, it is very satisfying and liberating!