Welcome back! Today I'm going to talk about the first limb of yoga, the yamas. Since there are 5 of them, I am going to break this topic in two posts. Part I will discuss the first 3 and Part II will discuss the remaining 2.
Yama is Sanskrit for 'restraint' and refers to the 'don't' rules of living. In fact, the yamas taken together with the niyamas, which will be discussed in a future post, are akin to the ten biblical commandments. Most major religions and philosophies provide some sort of roadmap for daily life and, in that respect, yoga is no different. However, it is important to remember that yoga is not a religion but a plan to help us live fully and authentically.
The yamas constitute the 'great vow' in yoga in that they should be practiced moment to moment, on and off the mat. They also help to refine the mind though self-control and awareness.
1. Ahimsa - to not injure, or more commonly, nonviolence.
This is perhaps the most well known tenet of yoga and extends beyond avoidance of physical harm to include thoughts, words, and deeds. The basic premise is that by harming any other living being, you are ultimately doing the same to yourself because of the interconnectedness of all things in the universe. Likewise, it is counterproductive to harm yourself either through physical harm, negative and hurtful thoughts, unsafe situations, or other forms of self sabotage.
2. Satya - loosely translated from Sanskrit as 'unchangeable', but more commonly known as truth.
I would be hard pressed to find any spiritual practice that would not include truth as a necessary discipline. But truth in yoga, as I understand it through my own practice and studies, is closely related to authenticity and true-to-yourself living (of course, all the while observing ahimsa). As your practice evolves, your internal line of questioning will lead you to perpetually ask yourself what it means to be you, as a unique individual in the world. What is your absolute truth? How does that relate to the larger absolute truth of all life?
3. Asteya - do not steal.
Again, we see another universal principle: simply, do not take what is not yours. Asteya also applies to feelings of jealousy and envy. In fact, another common interpretation is non-coveting. Coveting things, situations, and other people ultimately leaves us starving for what we cannot have. However, the blessing in experiencing these feelings is that it shows us what we desire in our own lives, prompting us to cultivate our own unique version of life.
With just these three yamas, there is already so much to reflect on and work towards. How do you incorporate ahimsa, satya, and asteya into your daily life?
It's a lot of food for thought to hold you over until the next post where I will write about brahmacharya (abstinence) and aparigraha (non-possessiveness).