The 8 Limbs of Yoga: Yamas

The philosophical foundation of yoga is summarised in the 8 limbs of yoga. Patanjali was the first who wrote down the 8-folded path in the second chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It’s like a roadmap to enlightenment.

The first limb of yoga is Yama, which is how we should act in the external, material world i.e. society if we’d like to achieve samadhi, union or a state of bliss consciousness. There are 5 observances: ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya and aparigraha.

1. Ahimsa

✌🏻 Ahimsa means non-violence
👀 non violence in our words, acts and thoughts
🥰 not only to other people, but also to ourselves. So don’t hurt yourself in asana practice.
🐷 because of ahmisa, most yogis are vegetarian or vegan 🌱
🕊 Sharath Jois has this saying: “it takes 2 hands to clap and make a sound. With just one hand, no sound is made. If you respond peacefully to a situation, then the conflict will calm down.”

2. Satya

🐵Satya means truth
☺️It means speaking a kind truth, not rude or offensive
🤭 Lying is a no-no
🦸‍♂️ But it also refers to living your truth.
So many people are in jobs they don’t like, in relationships with partners they don’t want to be with or acting like tradition wants them to. Then you are not following the yogic values of Satya.
💯It is believed that when all your actions are rooted in Satya and are true to your heart, success is inevitable.

3. Asteya

👮‍♀️ Asteya means non-stealing
🙅‍♀️ You don’t take what doesn’t belong to you: stuff, ideas, work,..
🤸🏻‍♂️ Asteya also refers to asana, the poses.
In your practice you only perform the poses that are available to you or that your teacher offers you. Otherwise you are ‘stealing’ asana.
🧘‍♂️ According to yogis, practicing asteya brings you closer to peace of mind, joy and being happy with what you got.

It helps you become ‘non-attached’ (which we’ll talk more about when we cover aparigraha). Do you attempt asanas that are beyond your reach?
Do you take credit for other people’s work?
Have you taken something that doesn’t belong to you?

4. Brahmacharya

👳‍♂️ Brahmacharya means self-restraint
🙅‍♀️ Typically it’s translated as celibacy but it’s not as straightforward or strict as not having sex.
👯‍♀️ It’s more like the middle path in Buddhism. You can have sex, but do it consciously and for instance not get drunk and sleep with random people who you don’t feel a connection with (there’s nothing wrong with this, but it doesn’t align with the brahmacharya value)
🧐 If you want to deepen your yoga practice for a period of time, you can choose to fast from food, social media and/or not engage in sexual relations for instance. This is all brahmacharya.
🐍 In yoga we use life force energy (aka sexual energy) and circulate it in the body for a higher purpose. When you use this energy for external desires (like normal sex where you ‘lose’ the energy in a peak orgasm), you ‘waste’ the energy. Conserving this energy will support your practice.
😋 Same with food. Digesting food takes up a lot of energy and when you control your portions (yogis are supposed to only eat what they can carry in their 2 hands 🤲) and/or fast, you have more energy in meditation and to connect with the more subtle realms of existence.

To be clear, you can practice brahmacharya without becoming a nun or a monk.

The essence is just that you learn discipline and self-control from your desires.

5. Aparigraha

✋ Aparigraha means non-possessiveness
🍃 It really fits the minimalist mindset
🚀 As long as you focus on getting things, you’ll never have enough. You want one thing, then you want another,.. you’ll never be satisfied. We break this desire by being content with what we have.
💆‍♀️ Yogis only have what they need and are mindful about the stuff the acquire.
💍 It’s all about overcoming being greedy and not taking or owning too much.

Call to action: please like, share and follow me on my social media platforms for more daily yoga wisdom and inspiration:

Instagram @IsabelleYoga.Be