In Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, Yamas are mentioned as the first limb of yoga. It is a series in which the rules and restraints are described which are considered necessary for a yogi to live a principled and decent life. In simple words, it is like, more or less, “not to do” list to restraint and control yourself.
Yamas are measured as the universal code of conduct that should be practiced by a yogi (or literally anyone) at all levels like in his\her actions, thought process, words, and in short at every aspect of their life. According to Patanjali, Yamas are not restricted to any class, creed, place, time, or anyone with any job or profession; these are universal and hence applied to everyone.
But what actually Yamas are? How kind of rules or vows are in there which are universal? Let’s find out together.
The List of Yamas
Most of the time, Yamas are generally associated with the sage Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra but in reality, the Yamas are mentioned in Hindu scripture Rigveda which was written way before the Yoga Sutras. According to famous author and yoga and meditation teacher Stephen Sturgees, “Yama is the Sanskrit word for ‘restraint’, particularly from actions, words or thoughts that may cause harm.”
List of Yamas as in Upanishads-
There are many ancient texts that discuss yamas, but since Patanjali has talked about only the first five yamas in his writing, we shall discuss them in the following section.
The Five Yamas
Now in this section, we will get to learn about five yamas of yoga described by Patanjali. Let’s begin with ahimsa.
It is considered a very crucial virtue in a human being and a very important rule in yamas. In simple words, ahimsa means not to hurt anyone in any way. It is the practice of non-violence in every way i.e. physically, emotionally, and mentally. It is believed that there is divine energy inside every living creature on earth, therefore when you hurt someone, you hurt yourself, hence it restraints to hurt any being.
Satya means being truthful in every action, thought, speech or in general in anything an individual does in its life. It is about walking through the path that leads to truthfulness, reliability, and honesty. In a way, it balances the first and second Yama balance each other.
In a literal sense, asteya means not to steal anything from anyone whether it is action, speech, thoughts, or any materialistic thing. Unless it’s given freely, one must not take anything at all whether it is as huge as knowledge or as trivial as wealth. It is about being munificent, moderate and non-greedy.
Mostly this Yama is translated as chastity in English, which is not entirely wrong but it does not mean that it suggests celibacy for everyone on the earth. I fact, brahmacharya intends to focus on controlling heart and mind through which the emotive, sensitive and impulsive part of an individual, physically and mentally, can be controlled by him\her. It takes valor and willpower to follow brahmacharya and to overcome the impulses and urges to emotions and addictions.
In simple terms, aparigraha intends to restrain our desires for materialistic or worldly things which are not necessary to live, especially those that do not belong to us. According to it, there is only one possession a human being should care about i.e. the soul, the true self, everything else will get destroyed eventually but not our soul. Aparigraha, in a sense, teaches us to appreciate what we have rather than to yearn for what we don’t.
Yamas are meant to trim down or eradicate the growth of bad karma so that we do not waste our time and energy into something appalling and immoral. Are the abovementioned yamas easy to follow? Of course not. Is it possible to do them? Definitely yes. There is nothing impossible in it; all you need is determination and self belief. Should you do it? No one can answer this question better than you. If you don’t agree with it or do not approve of it; it’s completely fine but if you want to follow it, you can definitely give it a try. Above all, it is something worth knowing or worth mentioning if you are into yoga or anything related to it and you must be aware of it that Everything is Yoga.