Yama: The 1st Limb of Yoga Explained

Kaisa Kapanen
Yama: The 1st Limb of Yoga Explained

It's easy to get caught up in life's drama, to be focusing on personal gain and material possessions. But if we want to challenge ourselves and perhaps start a spiritual journey to learn about the mysteries of life, we can start with the first limb of the eightfold path of yoga, Yama.

Rather than giving the right answers, they help to ask the right questions; how do we conduct ourselves in life, how we behave towards each other and what do we really need to be us.

What are the Yamas?

Yamas are the moral, ethical and spiritual guidelines of a person aspiring to reach balance, health, and well-being leading to spiritual development. There are five different characteristics, and these can be observed in our actions, words and thoughts. They help us to purify our nature and form a healthier and happier society.

1. Ahimsa — Non-Violence

Ahimsa means complete compassion towards all living things, including one self. This means simply that we should not harm ourselves, or any other living being. When we can realize that we are all connected, when hurting someone or something else is the same as hurting ourselves, and vice versa, we can start to get a hold of the true meaning of Ahimsa.

2. Satya — Truthfulness

Satya is a commitment to the truth. It's encouraging us to speak the truth to ourselves, and to those around us. Truth can often be a scary thing, or we think we may hurt someone by being truthful. But often, not being truthful can be much more harmful for ourselves and for our loved ones. The truth can be delivered with care and compassion, and in this way the truth can be very liberating.

3. Asteya — Non-Stealing

Anything which is not freely given to us can be considered stealing. And it does not mean stealing money or possessions from someone; we rarely do this in our daily lives. But how often are we trying to steal time from someone, trying to persuade someone to do something they don't freely want to do, or asking for someone's attention when it is not freely given?

Non-stealing also means that we should cultivate a feeling of abundance within us. Realizing that we do not lack anything, but have everything. We can be grateful of the things we have instead of trying to take what is not naturally ours.

4. Brahmacharya — Sense Control

Brahmacharya is often interpreted as celibacy, abstinence from sex. But what this means is that we could be more aware of how we use our sexual energy, and that we should not use it in a way that brings harm to us or to others.

When we let sexual experiences be what they can be at best, intimate expressions of love between two people, this can be a great addition to our spiritual journey.

5. Aparigraha — Non-Coveting

When we hold on to things, we are not allowing ourselves to be free. This is not just about holding on to material things, but also ideas and concepts that we may have about life, about the events in our lives, and about ourselves and our personalities.

When we realize that life is in constant flux, it changes and develops, and we change and develop with it, we are more free to go with the flow of life. We can trust in the Universe to provide us all we need in life.

How to Apply the Yamas in Your Daily Life

There are many lessons we can learn from these Yamas, and cultivating them in our daily life is not so complicated as it may seem at first.

Ahimsa

You can ask yourself whether your thoughts, actions and behavior is facilitating growth within you, and within others around you. Observe how you deal with others, and try to show more compassion.

Satya

Think about what is true for you, and how you know it to be true? Are you basing your truth on someone else's explanation of the truth, or have you experienced it as you own truth? When you hear a gossip, think about whether it is really something you want to communicate forward.

Asteya

Observe how you feel about your life. Do you feel you are bathing in abundance, or are you constantly looking for something extra to satisfy you and to make you happy? Do you demand time and attention from others, or do you let others steal your time and attention?

Brahmacharya

What are you spending your sensual and sexual energy on, and how are you expressing this side of yourself? Observe how you could balance the senses within you, and to use this energy for expressing the truth within you without hurting anyone in the process.

Aparigraha

You can try to observe what you need in your life in order for you to be you. How much do you possess things in life, and investigate how much those possessions possess you in turn? Do you acquire more all the time, or can you trust life to give you what you need without holding onto anything?

Practicing the Yamas in our lives can bring us closer to balance and peace of mind. They are the perfect building blocks for a long-lasting, peaceful relationship with ourselves and those around us.