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YAMAS - Universal Moral Discipline.
This first limb, Yama, refers to vows, disciplines or practices that are primarily concerned with the world around us, and our interaction with it. While the practice of yoga can indeed increase physical strength and flexibility and aid in calming the mind, what’s the point if we’re still rigid, weak and stressed-out in day-to-day life?
There are five Yamas:
1. Ahimsa (non-violence),
2. Satya (truthfulness),
3. Asteya (non-stealing),
4. Brahmacharya (continence, or right use of energy), and
5. Aparigraha (non-covetousness, non-greed or non-hoarding).
In BKS Iyengar’s translation of the sutras ‘Light On The Yoga Sutras’, he explains that Yamas are ‘unconditioned by time, class and place’, meaning no matter who we are, where we come from, or how much yoga we’ve practised, we can all aim to instil the Yamas within us.
Other texts describe further Yamas, for example the Śāṇḍilya Upanishad lists a total of 10 Yamas, excluding Aparigraha but including: Ksama (forgiveness), Dhrti (fortitude), Daya (compassion), Arjava (non-hypocrisy, or sincerity), Mitahara (measured diet), and Saucha (cleanliness).
By considering these aspects in our daily practice on and off the yoga mat, all of our decisions and actions come from a more considered, aware, and ‘higher’ place, and this leads us towards being more authentic towards ourselves and others.