Ready to Deepen Your Yoga Practice? Here’s What You Need to Know About the Yamas

Christina D’Arrigo
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You may not realize is that there is so much more to yoga than asana – the yoga postures that strengthen and stretch the body. One way to dive deeper into your yoga practice is to study the Eight Limbs of Yoga offered by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. Many yogis follow these guidelines for a purposeful and fulfilling life.

Patanjali is an ancient Indian sage who defined the Eight Limbs of Yoga in a sacred yoga text called The Yoga Sutras as a list of guidelines for people to follow in order to reach enlightenment. There are many translations of The Yoga Sutras in publication today, and there are several different opinions on how these guidelines can be interpreted.

The first limb of the eight are the Yamas, which are essentially a series of guidelines that represent how to live in a morally and ethically sound way. Some may see these guidelines as a set of rules that are too restrictive to participate in our current society.

However, if you look at the Yamas with an open mind and adapt them into your modern lifestyle, then you might just be surprised at how they help you to live a more mindful and joyful life.
 

Understanding the Yamas for a Deeper Yoga Practice

Let’s break down the Yamas, which are five guidelines as to how we should interact with the world around us. These guidelines focus on our moral standards and how we live our lives in relation to others.
 

1. Ahimsa (अहिंसा): Non-violence

Ahimsa represents being compassionate towards all living beings, including yourself. Treat yourself and others around you with kindness and care in thoughts, actions, and words.
 
For instance, if you are beating yourself up internally about not being able to get your body into Hanumanasana (the Full Splits), this is the opposite of practicing Ahimsa. Be kind to your body by not forcing it into a pose it is not ready for yet, and be kind to your mind by not filling it with harmful thoughts.
 
 

2. Satya (सत्य): Truthfulness

Satya represents honesty. Honesty is always the best policy, and when we are honest with others and ourselves, we can then begin to develop trust. Speaking our truth can be challenging at times because it often means putting yourself out there in a more vulnerable way.
 
It may also mean showing yourself and others who you truly are instead of hiding behind what you think you should be. Although this may be intimidating, it is the only way to set yourself free and live to your fullest potential.
 
Understand your Throat Chakra and how to unlock it in order to speak your truth here.
 
 

3. Asteya (अस्तेय): Non-stealing

Do not take what was not rightfully given to you. Stealing is not only harmful for the person you stole from, but it is also harmful for yourself. If you are stealing, you are coming from a belief of lack and scarcity. This lack and scarcity then translates into all aspects of your life.
 
When we are not practicing Asteya, we create a sense of not trusting ourselves to be able to create what we need on our own. This can translate into feelings of not being enough and insecurities about ourselves.
 
Learn to manifest abundance with the Law of Attraction here.
 

 

4. Brahmacharya (ब्रह्मचर्य): Moderation

Brahmacharya means not consuming or doing things in excess, specifically when it comes to sex. You know that saying, “everything in moderation?” That is exactly what this concept embodies. You can treat yourself every once in a while, but do not do this excessively.
 
For instance, you can have a slice of cake, but not the entire cake. You can buy yourself something nice, but do not spend all of your money on things that you do not need.
 
Recommended Read: Does Practicing Brahmacharya (the 4th Yama) Mean a Life Without Sex?
 
 

5. Aparigraha (अपरिग्रहः): Non-greediness

This represents practicing restraint and non-attachment. Feeling a sense of peace regardless of the outcome is the essence of Aparigraha. When we are attached to material things or even our relationships with other people, we often become greedy or very emotional about the outcome of a situation or lack of this particular material object.
 
Letting all of that go can be much easier said than done, but when we genuinely feel that what we already have is enough to make us happy, this often creates a sense of peace within us that allows us to move forward.
 

Applying the Yamas For a Fuller Life

The overarching theme of the Yamas is much like the Golden Rule that many of us know, which is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In other words, treat others and the world as you would want to be treated.
 
Following the Yamas provides us with a sense of peace and calm that we can carry with us as we move through our lives. Treating others as we wish to be treated, which is generally with compassion, creates a ripple effect for everyone we come into contact with in our daily lives.
 
By following the Yamas, you can make a real difference, not only for yourself, but for the people around you as well. Namaste!
 

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Christina D’Arrigo

Christina began her yoga journey in a Yoga For Dancers class back in 2008, and she is now an RYT 500 level yoga instructor in NYC. With almost a decade of yoga and over 25 years of dance experience, she knows a lot about the body and the way it moves. Christina runs the growing YouTube channel, ChriskaYoga, where she offers free yoga classes and tutorials.

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