Yoga Philosophy - Yamas

Updated: Jun 16, 2020

The Yoga Philosophy Series are highlights from discussions within our weekly Yoga Philosophy Class, Mondays at 6:15pm (UK Time) classes are free for anyone to join.

What are the Yamas?

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali outlines a step-by-step path of how to purify the mind and body. This eight-limbed path is referred to as "Ashtanga" Asht = eight, anga = parts/limbs. These paths are not taken one step at a time, but are practiced in conjunction with each other.

The first of these paths are the Yamas, social disciplines.

Important: "Ashtanga" mentioned here, is NOT the same as the Ashtanga Vinyasa sequence, popularised by K. Pattabhi Jois.

The Yamas are the first of the eight-limbs and are 5 social disciplines. They are:

Ahimsa - Non Violence

This is not just violence in the physical sense, there are three different levels:

  • Physical

  • Verbal

  • Mental

This means you don't physically harm yourself or others, you don't say harmful things to yourself or others and you don't think harmful things about yourself and others. Most of us can say that we would not be physically violent towards another person, but how many of us think or say violent things, especially to or about ourselves? "I'm terrible at reading" "I don't have any confidence" "My joints are just rubbish". Language is important whether you say it or think it.

Satya - Truthfulness

We have all been told since we were children not to tell lies. It's important to be honest, not only about things you have done, but who you are and how you feel. This isn't saying be tactless, but just speak your truth and be honest with yourself as well as others.

Asteya - Non-Theft

We aren't just talking about physical possessions, it's also intangible things such as other people's time or credit for something that someone else has done. It's important to be on time, being late is stealing someone else's time.

Brahmacharya - Non-indulgence

The aim is to live an unattached life and not to over indulge. It is important to have wants and desires but the key is to be present and aware and not over indulge. If you desire a bar of chocolate, then be present, be aware and eat that bar of chocolate, honour it and take it as a sacred time for yourself. Don't be absent minded, watching TV and over indulge to excess and you start to feel unwell or guilty.

Some people will refer to this as celibacy. The aim is not to be celibate but to have control over your sexual desire rather than giving into all of your sexual urges.

Aparigraha - Non-Possession

We all have a tendency to accumulate tangible goods, luxury items, home comforts etc. The aim is to reduce your time and energy on wanting and collecting these things. Ensure you fulfil your essential needs, but then try to reduce your needs.

If we try to live as a good human, these are things that we generally already know but have just been put into a different perspective. Essentially, be good to yourself and others and take everything in moderation.

If you would like to know more about the Yamas and the Yoga Sutras, get a copy of the book "The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali".

Next time... Niyamas

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