The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is one of the main texts of yoga, which explains many different aspects of yoga and how to work toward a state of enlightenment. The eight limbs of yoga, also known as ashtanga, make up part of this text. The eight limbs include yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and Samadhi. I will focus on yama in this post and then continue to explain the rest of the limbs in consecutive posts.
Yama refers to ethics or rules that you should follow to guide you on the path to enlightenment. They are similar to commandments and they encourage restraint and control over yourself. These guidelines encourage you to be a better person in how you act and how you relate to others. There are five different yamas to follow:
- Ahimsa: This yama refers to nonviolence. It means that you should not hurt yourself or others, including animals. It can also have a second meaning: to love.
- Satya: This yama teaches to be honest. To follow both the first yama and this one, sometimes you have to withhold the truth if it will cause harm.
- Asteya: This yama advises you not to steal from others.
- Brahmacharya: This yama refers to intimacy, although people have different thoughts and interpretations on this yama. Some say that it means you should live alone and be celibate in order to reach your highest potential. Other people feel you can include intimacy with others in your life if your main goal is to reach for your higher self and you control your sexual impulses. Some also say that you cannot know divine love without knowing human love.
- Aparigraha: This yama means you should not covet or desire. Many people live this one by giving to others instead of wanting for themselves.