The Yamas

The Yamas

The Yamas can be views as a universal moral code for all yogis to follow both on, and off the mat. It is based on a simple concept of self-control, refraining from actions, words and thoughts which may cause harm or distress to others.
The Yamas are split into five key principles:

  1. Ahimsa: Non-violence
  2. Satya: Truthfulness
  3. Asteya: Non-stealing
  4. Brahmacharya: Purity
  5. Aparigraha: Non-attachment

Ahimsa

The principle of Ahimsa promotes the development of an attitude of perfect love and respect for all life. By establishing a firm alignment with Ahimsa, harm, hostility and conflict is reduced and removed. This cultivation of ahimsa plants the seed for more ahimsa to enter our own life. In order to be true to this Yama, we must act unconditionally, whole heartedly and with truth

While it is easy to understand that ahimsa means refraining from physically harming living beings, we must also remember that indirect effects are also included within this principle. Harming the environment leads to damage to animals and plants, harming future habitats may harm our future generations – thus we must consider the consequence of our actions before acting.
Ahimsa also goes beyond simple physical harm. Refraining from harming others through speech is also important. Refraining from condemning others, from gossip and innuendo, manipulation, or using words to harm others in any way. Through this path we are able to let go of hate, anger and ill will. We release judgement and help to connect ourselves with each other, the world and the Divine. In this way, Ahimsa is not simply a passive withdrawal but rather an active engagement in preventing harm.

Satya

Satya is the commitment towards truthfulness – in our words, thoughts and actions. It is being 100% presence in the world and authentic in the way we live. When we are untruthful, we hold onto falsehoods, confusion and delusions. When we embrace the truth, these are removed and we see the reality of our being. In being truthful, we acknowledge that the Divine is truth, and truthfulness therefore brings us closer to the Divine.

Satya refers to both being truthful to others and to ourselves. If we are truthful with ourselves, the consequence is not only providing ourselves with clarity and awareness, but preventing us from misleading others with our own untruth. In this way, Satya is closely linked to Ahimsa.

Asteya

Through the practices of Ahimsa and Satya, we practice integrity, non-exploitation and honesty, we no longer become distracted from our own energy. With this strength of self, we are can cultivate a healthy balance within ourselves, where we no longer feel the need to steal, hoar or be envious of others. The act of non- stealing forms the basis of the principle Asteya. Stealing deprives others from what is theirs, and so, even stealing out of necessity cannot be justified. Following Asteya helps promote an honest life based on a deep connection to spirit.

Asteya goes further than the material, embracing the spiritual, emotional and psychological. Feelings of being cheated, abused and exploited are often present when Asteya is not practiced and the Ego is left unchecked. Patanjali believed that by practicing asteya in thought, words and actions, we may reach the state where we see the true beauty and meaning of all life.

Brahmacharya

Brahmacharya is derived from the words ‘Brahma’, referring to the God Brahma as the creator, and ‘charya’ meansing “to be wedded to”, and as such, can be described as being wed to Brahma himself, and the Divine source. It refers to purity in thought, word and action – moving through the world in harmony with the Divine. It can also be translated as integrity. It requires deep introspection and self-enquiry, moving away from easy judgement and excess, towards a path of moderation and understanding.

Brachmacharya sometimes interpreted as celibacy, rather than passion through deeper emotions of love and kindness. In traditional yogic culture, sexuality was often seen as an obstacle to spiritual enlightenment – attracting feelings of guilt and shame, of greed and distraction through pleasure. Sexuality, however, is not impure, but becomes impure if used without love, responsibility, respect, understanding and discrimination.

Brahmacharya encourages us to question our relationship with sexuality, making deep commitments in relationships, to bask in love, care and concern for another soul. Without these qualities, a sexual relationship only serves ego-gratification through the senses.
Through Brachmacharya, we use out energy impeccably, towards the goal of spiritual understanding and enlightenment. We do not corrupt or dissuade that energy, directing it only towards actions which help to strengthen our being.

Aparigraha

The word Aparigraha is derived from ‘apara’ meaning ‘of another’ and ‘agraha’ to crave for – Aparigraha literally meaning ‘without craving for what belongs to another’. Aparigraha urges us to live a life of non-attachment and non-greed.While Aparigraha can refer to physical objects, it can also refer to ideas of health, personal ideals and spiritual attachments. If we live and act from a place of attachment, we may alter and manipulate situations in order to ensure we don’t lose what we are attached to. This creates instability and insecurities, placing power in the object. We can gain security in truth, in the love in our heart and our love for the Divine. By giving our love generously, it is not lost to the world, but reflected back at us.

If we can begin to understand that everything in the Universe belongs to the Divine, then we can being to see that the Divine is the source of all our needs. This allows us to let go of our attachments, safe in the knowledge that the Divine will provide what we need. We being to understand that we do not need objects to be ‘ourselves’ and we are released from our Ego.

Namaste x

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