The Yamas …
Previously we have looked briefly at the 8 limbs of yoga and what they are. Now we are going to be diving a little deeper as we investigate the first limbs: Yamas.
The concepts wrapped up in this limb, form the foundation of all our yoga practices, not only that, they also act as a general guideline on how to behave towards ourselves and others, in a moral and ethical way. Encouraging us to be conscious of our actions, lifestyle and social attitudes. In the Yoga Sutra (a classic yoga text written by the Sage Patanjali), 5 Yamas are identified, so let’s have a look.
Ahimsa translates as non-harming. It requires us to be considerate of all our words, thoughts and actions, in every situation, whether we are in public or on our own! Asking us to consider how can we show compassion and kindness in every part of our lives, towards ourselves and every living thing. Modern day examples would be to not curse at other drivers during rush hour, not to push and shove during the Christmas sales and to not shout down the phone with frustration to your insurance company, and so much more! This Yama can also be relevant when purchasing and consuming goods, caring about the integrity of the companies we buy from, ensuring they are not causing any harm.
Satya means truthfulness, but more specifically stated in the Yoga Sutra it states benevolent truth. It is more than not telling lies. Here, we are asked to be honest, but to also be aware of the way our honesty could affect others. If the truth has negative consequences and Ahimsa (non-harming) has not been applied, then the truth is considered unnecessary in this situation and is better kept to yourself. Allowing an undercurrent of integrity and compassion to help steer you through the practice Satya.
Non-stealing, this may seem very straight forward. Don’t steal things, of course, we would never rob from a shop, right? Well hopefully not! However, Asteya means more than stealing material things. Is requires us not to take anything that does not belong to us, this could be someone else’s time and energy, taking advantage of someone’s kindness, gossiping about a secret someone confided in you, using someone else’s ideas and branding them as your own. You can maybe begin to notice now how all the Yamas begin to weave into each other.
In the past this has often been interpreted as celibacy, but do not worry, this is not the bottom line! Brahmacarya translates as non-excess, meaning to have less, only taking what you need, being moderate with your consumption. The main idea here is to not spend vital energy by chasing fleeting pleasures, but to conserve your energy for spiritual growth. For example, not eating a whole bag of chocolate biscuits out of greed, I know I’ve been here before and felt sick afterwards!
Possibly the hardest to practice in our modern society: non-possessiveness. Most of us are all so attached to our belongs, our careers, our relationships. Especially as we are bombarded through messages on media to want more and better things all the time! Here we are asked to practice non-attachment, letting go of possessiveness. Reminding us to feel a sense of gratitude and appreciation for what we have without the sense of clinging or grasping.
Maybe, these 5 Yamas can give you a little food-for-thought and a deeper insight into your yoga practice. As we continue about our day after a class at Artemis, how can we all go about with a little more kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others, with the influence of the Yamas in mind?
Words by Sarah Thomas (Artemis Teacher)