What are Yamas in Yoga ?
The ‘Yoga Sutras of Patanjali‘ written by sage Patanjali constitute the Eight limbs of Yoga, also known as Ashtanga Yoga, which forms the foundation of Yoga and helps you step by step to reach the highest pure self that resides within you.
Starting from Yamas to reach the state of Samadhi, this journey of the eight fold path of Yoga is very simple and holy. So let’s start understanding in depth, What are Yamas in Yoga ?
What is the meaning of Yamas?
Yamas are ethical, moral, and social guidelines for every practicing yogi that gives him a very positive and empathetic description of how to behave and relate to his world when truly immersed in a state of Yoga.
These Yamas describe valuable guides, i.e., restraints, or universal moralities, to lead a conscious, honest and ethical life.
What are the 5 Yamas in Ashtanga Yoga ?
The 5 Yamas described in the 8 limbs of Yoga are:
- Ahimsa – Practicing Non-violence
- Satya – Truthful and Honest
- Asteya – Non-stealing
- Brahmacharya – Complete Abstinence
- Aparigraha –Non-Possessiveness or Non-Covetousness
So let us briefly understand all these five guidelines of the eight limbs of Patanjali Ashtanga Yoga.
1-) Ahimsa / Ahinsa
Ahimsa is the first and most important of the five Yamas described in the eightfold path of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga.
Ahimsa means non-violence in physical, mental and emotional forms. Non-violence enables us to live life the right way and refrain from causing physical or emotional harm to any living being, including ourselves, by thought, speech or deed.
To put it simply, ahimsa is being peaceful with the thoughts in mind, actions in the body and intentions in the soul.
Therefore, yogis are advised to practice ahimsa or non-violence as an approach to universal benevolence and as a path to their spiritual growth.
The meaning of the second of the five Yamas is truth, which means pure, and that cannot be changed. This yama guides us to think, speak and act with honesty and truth. Expressing a truth in depth is much more than simply telling the truth through words and actions.
To understand Satya deeply, we must know that we primarily focus on everything that changes, not an immutable truth. We must find the truth within ourselves by practising the development of higher consciousness, and speaking the truth will be a natural by-product.
The third yama is asteya which means not to steal, which some may understand simply as abstaining from stealing material goods from others.
Whereas at the deepest level, asteya also means giving up the desire to steal material possessions or intangible things of others like relationships, success, time etc. Bad intentions to obtain anything by force or deceit, even deeds, words, or thoughts, violate asteya.
The fourth yama is brahmacharya or celibacy, which can be literally understood as the practice of celibacy or abstinence from any sexual desire. Broadly speaking, celibacy means placing oneself in the thoughts of Brahman or the Supreme Consciousness and seeing everything and all as an extension of God.
Therefore, by practising brahmacharya, the yogi is said to collect his inner energies and direct those energies to find his higher consciousness which leads to a life that is free from all suffering and takes him further on the path of spiritual practice.
Aparigraha, the fifth and final yama, is described by Sage Patanjali as “non-greed” or “non-possessiveness.” The essence of aparigraha lies in the freedom to renounce attachment to things, persons, feelings and any outcomes.
Aparigraha can feel overwhelming because it teaches abstinence from the materialistic world, expectations and attachment to one’s plans, objectives and outcomes. Also, undue involvement with thoughts, ideas, emotions and pleasures must be sacrificed while practising Yoga.
This ethical practice helps us determine when and how many essential things are needed; thus, one should only try to keep everything within the necessities of life. Thus, the dedicated practice of non-greed or non-possessiveness can bring immense freedom, self-reliance and contentment.