Eight Limbs of Yoga: A Yogi Way Of Life – Part 1

An introduction to the Yoga Sutras and the Yamas
By Melanie Kiss

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The first limb or branch of yoga are the Yamas.

Yoga isn’t just a stretch class, nor is it way to escape life for an hour. It is a way of life. Many people who dive into the ancient philosophy of yoga will realize that the physical yoga is not all that old but the yoga behind the physical is.

The principles of yoga were written thousands of years ago by the sage Patanjali, in what is known as The Yoga Sutras. These codes often get overlooked or might even be unknown,  due to the emphasis on the asanas. The eight-limbed path for purifying the body and mind is a great way to start or continue on your personal journey inwards.

The first limb or branch of yoga are the Yamas. They are five principles directed towards the outside world and our interaction with it.

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  1. Ahimsa  

Non-violence. This first yama says to not engage violence in thought, word or action. But it isn’t just about non-violence. It is also about compassion. Being kind and understanding towards yourself and others. Even as simple as being kind to yourself when perhaps you are not able to get into a posture. We all face challenges and showing compassion towards yourself and others is key.

  1. Satya

Truth. The second yama might be a tough one for many people, as it pertains to being truthful with yourself and others. Speaking your truth and living by it can be a hard task. Whether it is being honest and truthful with yourself on your mat and knowing your limitations or being truthful to your friend about how you feel. Living your truth can change your life. When you realize that some things you do or how you live might be another person’s truth, you stop and turn inwards and often find a pot of gold.

  1. Asteya

Non-stealing. The third yama is about not taking something that was not given. So this could be your neighbour’s newspaper or other people’s time and energy. This yama can bring about contentment and satisfaction with what you have. Gratitude comes into play.

  1. Brahmacharya

Moderation. The fourth yama is about the right use of energy. Many people interpret this yama differently as some may refer to this as the wise preservation of sexual energy. This does not exactly mean celibacy, but more so about spending your energy wisely while having respect for yourself and others. Remember that energy goes where attention goes, so spend your energy and attention wisely.

  1. Aparigraha

Detachment. This fifth yama once again might be quite the challenge, as it refers to letting go and not being greedy. It encourages non-attachment to thoughts, possessions and even people.  This yama can also bring you towards forgiveness and gratitude. When something of value breaks, be it a family heirloom or a relationship, the ability to let go can bring a feeling of gratitude for the experience of once having it. The act of letting go also stems from forgiveness, a powerful act of love. This yama teaches you to not cling on to things, including negative thoughts, and to go with the flow.

By practicing the yamas in our everyday life, we evolve in our personal journeys and function from a higher place. Our lives will become easier as we grow towards love and peace. But remember this can be a lifelong process so having patience and ahimsa towards yourself is key. We have good days and bad days, but so long as we put the effort into these yamas, over time it will become part of us.

To be practiced and continued with the remaining eight limbs of yoga…