The ethical component of yoga – Part 1 (Yamas)

As promised, this week we are delving further into Yoga Philosophy and looking at the first limb of Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga: Yamas

Yamas are the five moral/external restraints or also known as our attitude towards our environment:

  1. Ahimsa: Not harming, nonviolence or also known as consideration for all living things, especially those who are innocent, in difficulty, or worse off than we are
  2. Satya: honesty, being truthful or also known as right communication through speech, writings, gesture, and actions
  3. Asteya: not taking what is not freely given, not stealing also known as non-covetousness or the ability to resist a desire for that which does not belong to us
  4. Brahmacharya: wise use of energy, including sexual energy also known as moderation in all our actions
  5. Aparigraha: not being acquisitive, not accumulating what is not essential also known as non-greediness or the ability to accept only what is appropriate

T.K.V. Desikachar said in his translation of the yamas that how we behave toward others and our environment reveals the state of mind an dour personalities. The know at the door tells the character of the visitor!

I think you can tell a lot about a person by the way they are reacting in situations and towards other people. Ahimsa means we should act with consideration to others as well as ourselves. Sometimes we forget to be kind, friendly and loving towards ourself. This goes well with the second Yamas, Satya/Truthfulness, as we should speak the truth but at the same time still be kind and not harm ourselves/others by telling the truth. I guess these days it comes down to the way we say things to other people, we can be truthful, but also be kind and don’t just say something to hurt the other person. I think all of the Yamas teach us to be kind in situations and not to take advantage of them or people, to be aware what has been shared with us and not to take advantage of that, to take everything in moderation. This however also applies to the way that we are interacting with the environment and our world, for example if we litter, we are harming the earth and therefore have broken the first Yama. The Yamas can be applied to everything in our life from animals, the earth, situations, not just other people.

Part 2 will look at the Niyamas, which is our attitude to ourselves. Make sure to sign up to the Newsletter so that you don’t miss my next post. Let me know your thoughts below.

Jen x

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