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The Yoga Yamas: An Overview Of The First Limb Of Yoga

In case you’ve been practising yoga for some time, it’s possible you’ll be questioning the place yoga comes from and what’s behind the poses. As we’ll clarify on this article, there may be a lot extra to this historical religious apply than the shapes you make on the mat.

The eight limbs of yoga are a really perfect place to begin for studying about yogic philosophy. Specifically, the primary limb, referred to as the Yamas, presents very important knowledge on how as yoga practitioners, we should always act on the earth round us.

So if you happen to’re feeling known as to advance in your religious development or private growth journey and begin practising yoga on and off the mat, learn on.

An Introduction To Yoga Philosophy

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are among the many most important teachings in yoga philosophy. The textual content is a group of 195 Sanskrit sutras, compiled in the course of the early centuries CE by Indian sage Patanjali.

One of the crucial distinguished teachings within the yoga sutras is the eight limbs of yoga (or the Ashtanga yoga eight-limbed system). The eight limbs clarify how we are able to attain the aim of yoga, which is to unite the thoughts, physique, and spirit. The eight limbs are:

  • Yama (ethical codes or disciplines)
  • Niyama (observances)
  • Asana (bodily postures)
  • Pranayama (respiration strategies)
  • Pratyahara (sense withdrawal)
  • Dharana (focus)
  • Dhyana (meditation)
  • Samadhi (enlightenment or bliss)

Learning Patanjali’s yoga sutras reveals that almost all western yoga lessons are educating an incomplete apply. The bodily yoga poses they closely deal with are simply one of many eight limbs a yoga practitioner ought to observe.

Following the Yamas and Niyamas, practising breath management, and studying to meditate are equally as essential as performing yoga postures. Subsequently, the yoga sutras present that practising these moral rules is important if you wish to authentically and absolutely apply yoga.

What Are The 5 Yamas?

The 5 Yamas are finest described as ethical codes for interacting with the world. Yama, in Sanskrit, means “restraint.” Therefore, the 5 Yamas are issues you need to restrain from doing to expertise harmonious relationships with others and the universe.

Nevertheless, the sutras don’t current them as ethical commandments however reasonably an perception into the outcomes of doing or not doing them. For instance, the third Yama, Asteya, reveals that if we steal from others, we hurt ourselves and them. Subsequently, having information of the yoga Yamas can assist us make higher selections and acquire extra self-awareness.

The Patanjali’s yoga sutra that outlines the 5 Yamas is present in verse 30 of Chapter 2. They’re:

  • Ahimsa (non-harming or non-violence)
  • Satya (truthfulness)
  • Asteya (non-stealing)
  • Brahmacharya (celibacy or’ appropriate use of power)
  • Aparigraha (non-greed or non-hoarding)

Let’s take a more in-depth have a look at the 5 yoga Yamas and the way these historical teachings relate to our everyday life.


Ahimsa interprets to “non-violence” or “non-harming” however extends past bodily motion. Subsequently, even if you happen to describe your self as somebody who “wouldn’t damage a fly,” you should still not be practising this Yama.

Ahimsa is about exhibiting loving kindness to all dwelling issues by ideas, phrases, and deeds. Subsequently, it doesn’t solely imply to do no hurt to others bodily, however to talk sort phrases and take heed to any dangerous ideas you might have, too.

The trendy world presents us with many stressors to which we reply by blaming others; we might curse the one who cuts us off in visitors or complain about our boss. Even when the opposite particular person is the one within the unsuitable, Ahimsa says that responding with dangerous ideas, actions, or phrases should still lead to dangerous karma. In response to the eight-limbed path, emotional violence (hurtful ideas and feedback) are not any extra acceptable than bodily violence.

The Yama additionally means practising non-violence in the direction of ourselves. Whereas we might not deliberately hurt ourselves with a knife, many people damage ourselves every day by considering negatively and even speaking badly about ourselves. So to dwell this Yama means to catch once we say or assume we’re not adequate and substitute it with self-compassion.


Satya interprets to truthfulness, which, as you have got in all probability guessed, means to restrain from mendacity. Nevertheless, like the entire Yamas, it goes a lot deeper, which you’ll be able to uncover once we break down the phrase additional. The phrase ‘sat’ actually interprets as ‘true essence‘ or ‘true nature’ however can also be related to the time period ‘unchangeable.’

We regularly see what we consider to be the reality as absolute and unchangeable. Nonetheless, Satya invitations us to have a look at issues in a different way. Our ideas, feelings, and moods change regularly, but, these are the issues that create our beliefs and our “fact.” Subsequently, if you genuinely perceive Satya, you begin to see your beliefs from a unique perspective, understanding that nothing is absolute.

Yoga apply helps us see issues from a unique perspective. By means of asana, pranayama, and meditation, we apply discovering stillness and creating house in our minds. This enables new ideas and insights to enter and open our minds to the true actuality of a scenario we beforehand couldn’t see.

With out yoga apply and self-reflection, our minds can twist actuality and inform us issues are worse than they are surely. This causes us to overact with hateful phrases, ideas, or actions (going towards Ahimsa) and prevents us from experiencing a tranquil interior life.

Subsequently, Satya isn’t just about restraining from mendacity to others but in addition about uncovering our personal fact. It additionally sends the message that to be truthful to others, we should first be trustworthy with ourselves.


Asteya interprets as non-stealing. Whereas most of us know that stealing or robbing others’ possessions is unsuitable, the that means of Asteya additionally encompasses the act of non-stealing from the surroundings and ourselves.

Subsequently, you could possibly say that Asteya means to chorus from doing something which will take mom nature out of concord. Nevertheless, with a subject as broad as sustainability, practising Asteya can vary from utilizing reusable grocery luggage to forestall air pollution to going vegan to forestall rainforests from being cleared for animal agriculture.

So how will we apply Asteya in the direction of ourselves? Asteya is intently linked to Ahimsa. After we assume self-deprecating ideas, we’re not solely harming ourselves, however we’re additionally self-sabotaging. For instance, think about you see an advert on your dream job, for which you have got the {qualifications} and expertise.

You probably have low self-worth, your thoughts will begin telling you all types of the explanation why you’re “not adequate” for the function and the way they gained’t make use of you. Now, suppose you enable the unfavorable self-talk and can’t rise above it. In that case, you aren’t solely hurting your soul; you’re stealing the chance and success you deserve from your self.


Brahmacharya is the Yama that folks battle to know essentially the most and discover related in our fashionable life. Brahmacharya is usually translated as celibacy, one thing that historical yogis would apply to progress down the yogic path and expertise union with the universe.

Nevertheless, essentially the most correct translation of Brahmacharya is ‘habits which ends up in Brahman.’ In Hinduism and yogic teachings, Brahman is ‘the creator’ or, extra merely, a better energy. So Brahmacharya might be seen because the ‘proper use of power.’ It’s believed if you happen to use and direct your energy (together with sexual power) in the best means, you’ll turn into nearer to God.

When it comes to sexual power, practising Brahmacharya within the twenty first century may very well be seen as defending your power by being conscious of the folks you have got sexual relations with. Or in different phrases, it’s about deciding on your sexual companions fastidiously, as there’s a perception that we eat the power our sexual companions carry.

Nevertheless, in a extra common sense, Brahmacharya is about directing your power away from exterior wishes that may hurt your bodily and psychological well being. These embrace quick meals, playing, consuming, and medicines. Through the use of your power accurately and in search of happiness inside reasonably than externally, you’ll expertise extra peace and pleasure.


The Sanskrit phrase Aparigraha means non-greed and non-possessiveness. So this Yama refers to not accumulating and hoarding materials possessions (one thing many people are responsible of) and never making an attempt to regulate others.

Aparigraha isn’t about renouncing all our possessions and changing into monks, although. As a substitute, Aparigraha teaches us to take simply what we’d like reasonably than be grasping. For instance, if you happen to’ve ever been to an all-you-can-eat buffet, you might have taken extra meals than you could possibly eat. This in all probability resulted in wasted meals or overeating and feeling dangerous. Both means, you almost certainly discovered your lesson and took much less meals the subsequent time.

We are able to apply the precept of non-greed in all features of our life, not simply by discovering self-discipline at buffets. Greed stems from a deep-seated shortage mentality, the assumption that there’s not sufficient. This leads us to struggle towards others for promotions and pay rises at work or purchase extra meals from the grocery retailer as quickly because the information mentions attainable shortages.

The important thing to mastering Aparigraha is altering that mentality and considering from an abundance mindset. The necessity for competitors or hoarding diminishes if you consider there may be greater than sufficient to go round. To succeed in this mindset, you should let go of your present expectations round cash and attachments to your materials possessions. When you’ll be able to launch the will for outer wealth, that’s when you’ll expertise true interior wealth.

How To Incorporate The Yamas Into Yoga Observe

When you perceive the Yamas, you see what a superb software for self-study they’re. We mentioned how one can apply Yamas in every day life, however how will you apply them in your yoga mat?


As Ahimsa includes the way in which we deal with ourselves, take heed to what your thoughts tells you throughout your yoga apply and the tendencies you have got. For instance, do you are likely to push your self additional in a yoga pose even if you happen to really feel ache within the physique? Or do you mechanically dismiss making an attempt extra superior postures due to the assumption that you’re not adequate?

There are numerous methods we are able to trigger hurt to ourselves on the mat, each bodily and emotionally. So to apply this Yama throughout your yoga apply, set the intention to deal with your self with love, respect, and compassion.

Take time in every posture to note how your physique feels and what it asks for. After some time, you’ll begin listening to whether or not your physique is telling you to go deeper or again away. This manner, you’ll stop hurt and transfer by your apply, giving your physique exactly what it wants.


In yoga remedy, each Ahimsa and Satya are intently associated. Generally, to apply Ahimsa (respecting our physique) means to apply Satya (accepting the reality) too. For instance, we should first be trustworthy relating to our physique’s limitations. Then we are able to make the best selections about how we deal with ourselves.

Accepting the reality additionally includes acknowledging that our our bodies and minds are always altering. In the future, we could also be versatile sufficient to realize the total splits. Nevertheless, one other day, our hamstrings may have extra tightness, stopping us from doing the posture.

In case you can settle for that there can be ups and downs in your apply, like in every day life, you’ll have the ability to connect with your true self, making discovering peace inside a lot simpler. So to apply Satya in your every day apply, set the intention to honor and settle for how your physique and thoughts are feeling on that exact day.


You might assume Asteya is a Yama that can not be practiced on the mat, however this isn’t the case. One strategy to describe stealing is wanting greater than you deserve or are entitled to. Generally in a yoga class, we might have a look at the extra superior practitioners and need we may do the postures they’ll or with as a lot ease and style as them.

This sense could also be attributable to a scarcity of persistence or the will to achieve a sophisticated stage with out adequate effort and time. Nevertheless, if there was a strategy to do each yoga pose completely with out placing in years of apply, this may be stealing.

What’s extra, if you happen to try a difficult posture if you find yourself new to the apply, you could possibly find yourself hurting your self, going towards Ahimsa too. So to apply Asteya, set the intention to honor the place you’re proper now and deal with the method of the journey, not the vacation spot.

Committing to being non-judgemental and non-competitive in a yoga class will assist in different methods too. For instance, you’ll be much less prone to evaluate your self with the opposite college students, wishing your physique regarded like theirs.


As Brahmacharya is about utilizing and directing your power the best means, practising this Yama on the mat means specializing in the apply’s deep advantages reasonably than the superficial ones. Subsequently, you need to see yoga as a holistic software for well being, wellbeing, and religious growth reasonably than as a strategy to get match and create a pleasant physique.

A method to do that is to include extra meditation, pranayama, and spirituality in your classes, reasonably than focusing solely on the bodily actions. You could possibly additionally attend lessons at a yoga studio reasonably than a fitness center. On this setting, you’ll obtain a extra full and well-rounded apply, permitting you to get extra in contact along with your interior self.

Subsequently, to apply Brahmacharya, set an intention to apply yoga in a balanced means, benefitting your thoughts, spirit, and physique.


Aparigraha is about letting go of expectations and the necessity to really feel in management, which might considerably assist us on the mat. Setting objectives in your asana apply is great, because it helps to maintain you centered and progress additional. Nevertheless, suppose you set unrealistic expectations, like mastering the forearm stand in a single week. In that case, disappointment and unfavorable self-talk are all you’ll find yourself with.

Subsequently, it’s finest to set intentions primarily based on a sense you need to domesticate throughout your apply reasonably than a form you need to grasp. This may assist you to get out of the shortage mindset and break the assumption that you want to obtain particular postures by sure instances. By approaching your apply with an angle of abundance, you’ll have the ability to apply with non-attachment to the outcomes. Thus, you’ll benefit from the course of (and the outcomes) far more.

Remaining Ideas

As you’ll be able to see, the Yamas present a path to self-realization. By being acutely aware about the way you act in the direction of others, you additionally begin to deal with your self higher. If you begin dwelling the Yamas, you start your journey to a extra peaceable, joyful, and moral life. From right here, you’ll be able to study in regards to the second of the eight limbs of yoga and the subsequent stage of your religious growth; the 5 Niyamas.

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