Yoga; The 8 Limbs. The Yamas

There are 8 limbs to a full Yoga practice. Each limb is a complete discipline and a life long journey of learning.

The 8 limbs are; Yama, Niyama, Ãsana, Prãnayãma, Pratyãhãra, Dhãrana, Dhyãna and Samadhi. In this article we’ll look at the Yamas.

The Yamas are guide lines for ethical living. You are encouraged to cultivate these in your daily life.

The Yamas are Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Bramacharya and Aparigraha.

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Ahimsa – non harming.

This is not just about don’t kill other beings but any form of violence.

There are many forms of violence; in your language, your actions, your tone and your thoughts.

Are you involved in gossip?

Are you manipulating others to do things, even though you know they don’t actually want to?

What about your internal critic? Are you unnecessarily critical and judgemental of yourself?

Are you having angry thoughts about others? Do you give anyone the benefit of the doubt? Do you try to see things from others point of view? Do you act with compassion?

Satya – truthfulness.

This is not just about you telling the truth but living your truth.

Are you living a life congruent to your value system?

Are you telling people the truth, not telling them the full story, are you deceiving others?

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Are you truthful to yourself in your asana practice or is your ego driving you beyond your limitations towards injury?

Is your ego holding you back in your practice as you aren’t willing to try? Are you stealing the experience of growth from yourself because you are afraid?

Are you true to your word? How good is your word? Do you hold yourself accountable to it? Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Satya must also be practiced with Ahimsa. Will it bring harm? Not also ways an easy decision… What is your intention in telling the truth?  This will often guide you towards the right answer. The two combined will guide you towards clear non violent communication.

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Asteya– non stealing.

This is not just about do not steal but also do not taking something that is freely given. Just because someone left something unattended doesn’t mean that it’s yours.

Do you take more than you need? Are you greedy for stuff, for attention, for emotional support?

Do you manipulate other people’s time and attention?

Are you stealing from yourself? Are you punctual, or do you make yourself annoyed and others wait, or draw attention when you enter a room late?

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Bramacharya – countenance, non excess.

You can be a slave to your addictions and impulses. They can drive your life if you are not aware of them.

Everything in moderation is the way here; a measured approach with food, drink, sleep, pleasure and work.

If you are aware of your tendencies you can correct them. Consciously drive your life towards balance. Try not to be at the beck and call of your latest whimsical indulgence, it may not serve you in the long run.

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Aparigraha – non coveting.

This can be a difficult one for some in todays capitalist society.

Marketing tells us that if we look like this or buy that, then we will be happy.

Consumerism buys in to this model.

Whatever delight we find in that new thing we buy soon wears off and then we look for more. We are caught in a vicious circle of suffering.

If you look at what you need with awareness and Satya, you realise that you do not need to possess so much. You are then less attached to your impulses to fill the void with purchases and covet less. You are freer and happier. With regard to Ahimsa when you purchase, you buy ethically so it is non harming to others.

In order to practice the Yamas, don’t take an all or nothing approach.

Incorporate the Yamas little by little into your life. You will forget, you will let your impulses drive you and your emotions will sometimes get out of hand. This is Being human. This is where the self awareness comes in. This is where you begin again. Practice Ahimsa and start afresh. This is a life long practice not a goal that can be achieved in 10 days.

Turn up for yourself again and again. Move your life in the the right direction for you.

When you practice the Yamas, you build self awareness, you live with integrity, honour and respect. You will shift your life from a reactive one to a proactive one.

Living in a way that brings better decisions for you and your life. Living with purpose moves you towards your balance.

Each limb of Yoga prepares you for the next one.

They are all a lifelong path of learning and practice.

To have a full Yoga practice all 8 limbs will be incorporated into your life.

So what does Going to Yoga mean? Your Yoga is where you are, not just on the mat.

Food for thought…

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