The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 1 – Yama)

16 January 2013

Yama – Self-restraint, self-control and discipline (aka, the 5 don’ts of Yoga)

Yama is the foundation of yoga.  It is the first step in the Eightfold Path (the 8 Limbs) of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Yama tells us what to avoid doing because it would bring harm to the individual and others.  The observance and practice of yama disciplines the five organs of action; the arms, the legs, the mouth, the organs of regeneration, and the organs of excretion. It is quite natural for the organs of action to control the organs of perception and of the mind. Whenever the mind intends to bring harm to something and the organs of action refuse, no harm will be done. Therefore, Yama is regarded as the foundation or root of the tree of yoga.

Patanjali considered the Yamas to be great, mighty and universal vows. He instructs us that they need to be practiced on all aspects of our being (meaning; actions, words, and thoughts) and that they are not confined to class, race, gender, time or place.

Yama outlines the moral, ethical and societal guidelines for students of yoga and the practicing yogi. These guidelines are all expressed in a scientific and positive manner, thus becoming dynamic descriptions of how a yogi behaves and relates to the world when fully immersed in the experiential unitive state of yoga, called Samadhi. For those of us who have yet to achieve such a pure state, the Yamas are still highly appropriate and valued guides to help us consciously lead a more moral, ethical and honest life.

Yama: The Five Don’ts of Yoga:

  1. Ahimsa – Non-violence
  2. Satya – Non-lying (truthfulness)
  3. Asteya – Non-stealing
  4. Brahmacharya – Continence (celibacy)
  5. Aparigraha – Non-coveting

In a very practical sense, observing and practicing the Yamas eliminates, or at least reduces the accumulation of negative karma as well as preventing the draining of our energy caused by leading a false and/or unconscious life. When practicing the Yamas we’re promoting a healthier, holier and more peaceful life while simultaneously raising our awareness, strengthening our will and increasing our power of discernment. Engaging these practices is formidable task, although by doing so we fortify our character, improve our personal relationships, and further our progress on the spiritual path to the yogic union between the individual self and the universal self.

Related article, click on: Patanjali’s Eightfold Path (the 8 Limbs of Yoga)

Check back soon for “The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 2 – Niyama)”

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