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The 5 Yamas Of Yoga – What Are They And What Do They Mean?

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The 5 Yamas Of Yoga – What Are They And What Do They Mean? November 24, 2017

The more you dig into yoga, the more you find. Did you know the concept of Yama in yoga philosophy has 5 elements? Well, it does, and they explain the concept of Yama beautifully and profoundly.

Yama is part of the ‘Eight Limbs Of Yoga’ mentioned in Yoga Sutras by Patanjali- considered the father of yoga. It is the beginning of a structured path that leads you to bliss and enlightenment.

They say ‘well begun is half done,’ so why not learn the first concept ‘yama’ of the yoga sutras well and pave the way for an enriching yogic path. Stay put and read on to do so.

What Is The Significance Of Yama In Yoga?

Yama is your best guide to lead an honest and conscious life. It encourages to portray your true self and saves you the energy wasted on putting up a farce.

It is a path that is healthy and peaceful. It also strengthens, increasing your awareness and will to achieve better. All these sound relatively easy but are difficult to practice and keep up.

Yama elucidates on the moral standards of living. It tells us how to conduct our lives. It directs us to behave in a way that we would like to be treated, by others.

Yama asks us to follow the path of non-violence, truth, and self-control. It is a rule, goal, and self-restraint that give a proper control over your behavior and being.

We all know that Yama is part of the Ashtanga- Eight Fold Path mentioned in Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. But much before that, it was spoken about in the Rig Veda and many other ancient texts of the Vedic age.

Yama means ‘restraint.’ It asks you to check your actions, words, and thoughts from time to time. It evolved from one ancient text to another- the Upanishads to the Mahabharata- as an ethical duty to self-questioning.

Let’s learn about the 5 elements of Yama now.

The 5 Yamas Of Yoga 

  1. Ahimsa
  2. Satya
  3. Asteya
  4. Bhramacharya
  5. Aparigraha

1. Ahimsa

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Ahimsa is non-violence. It advocates one to restrain from any harm either mentally, physically or emotionally to others or even with yourself.

Ahimsa promotes compassion and detests habits like judging, criticizing, anger and irritation.

Compassion is an excellent way to practice non-violence. When you feel and connect with others, you don’t feel like harming them.

Ahimsa tells you to gain the ability to accept things as they are with love and kindness. It encourages you to let the bad feelings go and instead replace it with acceptance and love.

The best way to become compassionate is to try it on yourself. Accept yourself as you are without any judgment making it easier for you to try it on others.

Ahimsa is the foremost of Yama; it is the trick towards leading a happy and tranquil life. As you begin to practice Ahimsa consciously, you will realize that it comes naturally to you and that you can prevent harm spontaneously.

One fine way to begin Ahimsa practice is to be kind, accepting and forgiving. You feel a powerful and deep-rooted confidence when you completely embrace Ahimsa.

[ Read: 27 Time Tested & Effective Confidence Boosting Techniques ]

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2. Satya

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Satya is the truth. It is about living and speaking the truth as it is. It is tough to practice truth because we have to do it while respecting the concept of Ahimsa.

When we know that speaking the truth can harm something, then it is best to restrain it. Satya is all about when to tell the truth and when to keep quiet even when you know the truth.

But that does not mean you ignore that truth or take it off your head. Satya urges you to know the truth in your head even when you shouldn’t say it out aloud.

Knowing and accepting the truth is liberating. It gives you clarity and a higher vision. Living a truthful life is respectful and of a great honor. Above all, it makes you feel good.

Satya is accepting things as they are instead of manipulating it to be the way we want it to be. The best way to practice Satya is to overcome the fear and negativity in your self that prompts you to twist facts.

Once you fight off your fears, you will have no reason to lie to yourself. Also, make it a habit to refrain from telling lies and train yourself to speak with clarity and kindness.

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3. Asteya

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Asteya is non-stealing. In other words, it is not taking what is not given to you or not given to you freely.

Sounds relatively simple, but Asteya also means not to steal either physically or mentally or even encourage or help those doing so in mind, word or action. You must not even keep quiet when you see somebody else stealing.

Asteya is a perfect way to overcome greed. When you overcome the itch of taking or the need to take something that is not yours, you lose interest in it, and the riches don’t seem alluring anymore.

Asteya does not necessarily mean to restrain stealing physical objects; it is also stopping from stealing information and robbing people of their emotions and fragility.

Practice Astreya by fixing the problem that urges you to steal. Be happy with what you have, become satisfied and do not feel jealous of others. Make those qualities a habit.

Overcome the negative qualities by realizing that wealth is just a state of mind. And as you increase your inner wealth by selflessly giving, you automatically increase your outer wealth.

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4. Bhramacharya

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Brahmacharya is self-control. The world will topple if there is no restraint imposed. Gain control over your physical and mental state, then the need to go overboard lessens.

Knowledge, power, and stability come from self-control. Going overboard with anything will only spell disaster. Brahmacharya keeps you balanced and focused.

It takes great courage to come out of your addictions and excessive fun. But you must know that each time you try and overcome a bad habit, it feels great. It makes you healthier, happier and wiser.

Brahmacharya brings moderation into your life. By being moderate, you conserve a lot of energy which you can direct towards achieving a higher purpose.

Brahmacharya helps you turn inward, helping you find out what you truly need and eliminating anything that seems unnecessary. It helps you fight cravings and become independent.

When you free yourself from temptation, sensual pleasures and addictions, you feel a great inner joy. To be able to do this, you need to clean out the dirt that you watch, talk and listen to.

Keep away from films, books and people that divert you from the path of Brahmacharya and deplete your energy unnecessarily.

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5. Aparigraha

Aparigraha is non-desire. It is letting go of everything that we do not need and keeping only that is necessary.

Physical objects are first on the list that you must let go. You must stop craving them and not bother much about possessing them.

Aparigraha teaches you to realize the temporary nature of worldly objects. Clinging to or becoming attached to something temporary is not okay as that disallows you to be open to receive what you need.

Aparigraha urges you to question yourself each time you call something yours. It helps you to maintain a balanced feeling towards the things you possess and restrain you from getting too attached to it.

It trains you to use things given to you but not own them. When you become attached to worldly possessions, you are in fact hypnotized. They gain power over you and control your behavior.

Whereas, if you use them as they are and not get emotionally attached then you can enjoy their benefits wholly without being bogged down by false expectations.

Begin the practice of aparigraha by analyzing your relationship with people and objects. Use objects to help you instead of making them a part of your personality. Be balanced in relationships, let there be a mutual give and take of respect and work.

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Now, let’s answer some common queries on Yama and yoga.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

How important is Yama in today’s world?

There is nothing more useful than Yama in today’s world. It teaches you to be balanced in this ever-changing and ever hyperventilating world.

How often do I practice Yama?

Yama is a continued process. If you take breaks from it, then the whole point of it is ruined.

We need a reliable moral guide to tell us what is wrong and right. In the rush of this fast and mad world, we don’t even realize to think if what we are doing is right. The lines are blurring between what is correct and bad. In such a situation, it is of utmost importance that you learn and practice the 5 principles of Yama. Do it now.

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