The Yamas of Yoga

The Yamas of YogaThe biggest myth of Yoga is that it is a series of poses you push yourself through once or twice a week, or, as I practice, every morning. The poses, called Asanas, are just one small part of Yoga. If you are at all serious about getting the complete benefit out of pursuing this ancient art, beyond how cute your butt looks in yoga pants, you will want to discover what Yoga actually is.

What Yoga is Not:

→ An exercise program or series of poses
→ A religion
→ A mysterious, ancient secret reserved for monks

Yoga Is:

8 ways to live the most beneficial life in terms of mental, physical and spiritual health and wellbeing, otherwise called, the Eight Fold Path.

The first way, or path is called Yamas and is a set of social principles, how you treat others and the world around you. In order to fully practice Yoga, this is where you want to start.

The Five Principles of Social Principles (Yamas)

1. Refrain from using all forms of violence. (Ahimsa)

2. Remain honest in words and actions. (Satya)

3. Do not take what is not yours. (Asteya)

4. Pursue a spiritual lifestyle (Whatever that looks like to you). (Brahmacharya)

5. Do not covet/want what others have (refrain from feeling jealous). (Aparigraha)

As you can see, these principles are all about doing what’s right by other people. There is much of Yoga that echoes many religious teachings such as the Ten Commandments. You can practice Yoga by practicing them without being religious, practice Yoga by practicing your religion’s set of principles, or you can allow them to enhance and complement each other, whatever works best for you. However you do it, when you reflect on and live these principles, you are practicing Yoga.

The Eight Fold Path of Yoga

1. Social principles to get along with others better. (Yamas)

2. Self principles such as inner discipline and responsibility to become the best you possible. (Niyama)

3. The poses to strengthen the body and unite the mind/body/spirit connection. (Asanas)

4. Spending time with your breath to purify and remove distractions, and bring about a feeling of peacefulness/equanimity (such as sitting meditation). (Pranayama)

5. Focused and sustained inner reflection to remain more connected to yourself and your intuition/higher self. (Again, such as in meditation). (Pratyahara)

6. Practice mindfulness by focusing your thoughts in order to improve concentration, reduce stress along with a vast variety of additional benefits (Such as using a mantra or having a visual focus). (Dharana)

7. Practice mindfulness in general to increase awareness of yourself and the universe as it unfolds in the present moment. (Dhyana)

8. Feeling at one with the universe and reaching the ultimate enlightment – the promised consequence of following the other 7 paths. (Samadhi)

I will share additional information about the additional 7 paths of Yoga in future posts, so stay tuned to those. For now, I challenge you to reflect on the Yamas and how they can improve your lifestyle. Also, join me as a fellow Yogi on the path to better health and mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing. Just leave a comment here, or at the Inspir3 Facebook page to set your intention.

2 thoughts on “The Yamas of Yoga

  1. Most interesting! I get the idea that there’s a sort of “tree of life” in the traditions of yoga, where each of the steps of the eight-fold path has individual leaves (5, in the case of yamas and 7, in the case of samadhi).

    I encourage you to write deeper on things like niyami; as somewhat who has never participated or done much reading in the tradition of yoga I had no idea that yoga dealt with more than physical training and mental cleansing.

    • Matt, I love the Yoga Tree that denotes the eight fold path! If I was younger I’d probably get that as my next tattoo :)

      I will write about the Niyamis soon. I really want to help people understand the beauty of the Yoga traditions – off the mat – and how life enhancing it can be. For those without a religion, it can really nurture the inner self, while those with a religion or belief system can also become Yogi’s and add a new layer of depth to their personal belief system. It’s a beautiful thing!

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