The 8 limbs of Yoga – One: The Yamas

Some days ago I wrote an article about how the 8 limbs of Yoga can help us to improve our well-being and to live in peaceful coexistence with others. I would like to take this series deeper starting with the first limb – Yama.

The 5 Yamas

First let me refresh your memory. The first limb of the eightfolded path is yama. With yama, Patanjali provides us some sort of ethical codex. Within this codex, there are 5 aspects that help you to live in peace with other beings and yourself. Sounds pretty nice, but let me say in the beginning, it’s not as easy as it sounds but so so worth trying to work on it everyday. So let me present the 5 Yamas in short.

  1. Ahimsa – Ahimsa means non-violence or more special not to hurt yourself or anybody else. Sounds easy? Well, ahimsa isn’t just about the physical part of violence. In my opinion even more important to ahimsa are our thoughts and our speech. They can do more harm than you think. And there are more people out there harming others by gossip or judgement than by going out beating each other up. Our thoughts create our reality. I think cultivating ahimsa is one of the most important tasks of our society. Imagine, if everybody in this world would start RIGHT NOW to not harm anyone in words, actions or thoughts, what change could you see?
  2. Satya – That’s the sanskrit word for truthfulness. According to satya, we should not lie to others but also not lie to ourselves. I think we all struggle to be always truthful. All the time we wanna be accepted, be loved, be part of some groups. By wanting all this we sometimes conceal the truth a little bit so others like us more. Even if you can’t believe me now, let me say this: when we are truly honest to everyone and ourselves, we become authentic. And authentic, real people, that’s what this world needs to heal. As hard as it is, try to always stay true. Note: Ahimsa over Satya. So if you tell someone the truth and this could hurt him or her, try to do it in a diplomatic way or, if that’s not possible, keep the truth to yourself to do no harm. In time others will find the truth by themselves.
  3. Asteya – literally this means “not to take things illegaly from others” or more simple “you should not steal from others”. Stealing refers here not only to shoplifting and robbery. It also means you should not adorn yourself with borrowed plumes (remember satya). Asteya can be understand even broader like not taking the last pudding from the fridge when you know someone else likes it far more than you and so on.
  4. Brahmacharya – This one means self-discipline or more literally abstinence. Abstinence of meat, of alcohol, of sex. What the fuck you might think now. Nowadays it’s rather unusual that we go and live in a cave far far away from the desires of worldly life. So today, brahmacharya is more about finding balance. It means that you should honor your body and therefore show a little discipline. Like not wasting your body with tons of junkfood, but a burger every now and then won’t kill you. It means that sex should be no means to an end, like you just go with that person to get a little feeling of love. You are more worth than just 15 minutes of fun and afterwards emotional desaster. The key word we need here is balance. You can go out and get drunk, but the next morning step on your yogamat. Or if you know you will get aggressive towards others when you’re drunk, then stop at the right time. Self-discipline is all about finding your own rules what makes you feel comfortable and happy and what keeps your body and mind healthy.
  5. Aparigraha – this means not to accept gifts. And again a huge WHAT might appear on your face. But when we look more closely to that sanskrit word, confusion might disappear. Aparigraha in it’s essence likes to warn you to get to greedy and attached to material things. It teaches us to learn that we don’t need a huge bunch of material stuff to be happy. That happiness comes from within. The thing with gifts is, we should not accept them if someone tries to manipulate us with it or if we feel obligated to do something after we received it. A birthday present from your best friend is not the problem.

Outlook

So now I gave you a quick overview what the yamas are and what their core essence is. If we try to integrate them in our daily lives step by step, working on ourselves to become the best and most positive version of ourselves, we can experience that our relationship to ourselves and to others will grow and deepen. This series will continue by outlining one yama after another, because there is so much more to say than this quick overview. I will explain each yama more detailed and give you a bunch of tips and tricks how you can start step by step to try them out and integrate in your life. Humans need more humanity, and we can change the world by starting to change ourselves. If we cultivate love and unity, we will get love and unity. As you sow, so you shall reap.

 

Peace and Love, Jane

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