The Yoga Sutras of Patanjai or Yoga Philosophy is one of those things that can be hard to wrap your head around. I am learning so much more as I research deeper for the fact of writing this article.
I am a Kinesthetic learner, meaning I need to experience something or have a hands on approach to understand it so I have put together how I interpret the Yamas and incorporate them in my life to perhaps give a different view on what they can mean.
(Let me know if you enjoy this post and I will write about the Niyamas)
To get you started here are the 8 Limbs of Yoga Philosophy
1. The five Yamas: Morality – Moral Restraints
Ahimsa: Non Violence
Asteya: Non theft
Brahmacarya: Integrity around sexuality or Celibacy
Aparingraha: Non Greed
2. The Five Niyamas: Self Disciplines
Tapas: Self Discipline
Svadhyaya: Selft study
Ishvara Pranidhana: Surrender to the absolute/divine/god
3. Asanas: Physical postures/ Movement
4. Pranayama: Prana = Expansion, Yama = Life Force or control of breath
5. Pratyahara: Turning Inwards or withdrawal/detachment of senses
6. Dharana : Concentration or one point of focus
7. Dhyana: Meditation or contemplation
8. Samadhi: Enlightenment or Liberation
As you step through each limb you will notice that they all lead onto and compliment the next in preparation for Samadhi. Yamas and Niyamas make up the ethical component of yoga.
Yamas = Morality or Moral Restraints
I’m certainly not a perfect person but I try to keep these things in check and they guide me very well. There are of course things that I am working on, such as the fact I would like to have more Tapas or self discipline for example, but its all a work in progress, you know.
Ahimsa: Non Violence
I practice Ahimsa on a gross and subtle level, meaning I do not harm another being directly or indirectly. I follow a vegan diet as I believe eating meat goes against this Yama. It took me many realisations in my life to get here and actually transition to a vegan diet, therefore I do not judge others for the way they live their lifestyle.
Statya – Truthfulness
I practice truthfulness in the way I guide myself. With this Yama I do a lot of soul searching, I try not to see things as I have been told to see them or as I want to see them, I analyse to see how things really are. Satya simply means being honest and truthful. It sometimes means being vulnerable which for me is quite a scary feeling. I simply try to be honest with what my internal compass is telling me to do. I also believe in honesty but that doesn’t mean I like to share everything as some things are better left unsaid. For example if someone has a new hair cut or colour that looks terrible, that is really just my opinion and expressing this does not lead to following a greater truth.
Asteya: Non theft
Non theft, duh? its pretty obvious. Indeed. But when we ponder a little further and perhaps use a little truthfulness there are many things we could be taking that do not belong to us for example, time and energy. You could be unintentionally dumping your issues onto someone without seeing if it is an appropriate time for them. I Also try be mindful of what issues I am offloading, are they trivial things that I could have easily worked through alone? or is it something I am seeking meaningful advice for? How is my energy being interpreted? That kind of thing. It can be draining particularly for sensitive people.
Okay, so this is not something I follow to its extremities but we can all relate to the importance of exercising self control and respecting ourselves and others with our actions. Many Yogis choose to live this way to repress the energy and put it to other use such as meditation or contemplation. I simply believe sexuality is a part of our nature and is a form of expression.
Aparigraha: Non Greed
Aparigraha is an understanding that our ego will never be pleased. We should all try to have a taste of what satisfaction with very little feels like. I personally try to live a minimalist lifestyle. which some would consider extreme but it works really well for me, this is a work I’m progress. It essentially means to live with only the possessions you need, or mindful possessions that bring you joy.
Aparigraha reminds us to be happy with what we have, a roof over our head, a body that allows us to practice yoga, the meal you just ate. Things like this. I find practicing gratitude every day helps to keep the perspective.
There are many different ways we can dive into yoga philosophy and you can choose how deep you want to go, its your journey, take it as disciplined as you like but its a good idea to be mindful and never loose yourself along the way. I am working on a fine balance between following the philosophy and the way I choose to express myself.
Thank you for taking time to read my words, these are just my thoughts and interpretations of how the Yamas have influenced things in my life, I would love to hear how you incorporate these things into your own. Leave me a comment below.
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