There are actually 5 Yamas‘ in all. Non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, moderation, and non-greed.
The 5 yamas are often considered to be the “don’ts”. The personal code of conduct that regulate our behaviour and choices. How we behave starting with the self. How we choose to live.
All yoga really starts with the self. By adjusting our behaviour we can improve how we feel about ourselves, make positive changes, and this then improves how we treat others as well, making our impact on others more positive.
Non-violence (Ahimsa) – to not cause pain. Put simply this means by word, thought, or deed. To ourselves and others. This is often one of main reasons yogis give for being vegetarian. My previous blog post How Can We Practice Non-Violence can be found by clicking here!
Truthfulness (Satya) – to not lie, to speak the truth, to seek our inner truth and honour it. When it is ok to be untruthful (to protect someone from pain, or for a greater good) is a much bigger discussion. In general terms though, honouring the truth of our soul, our centre, our core being, this creates a greater sense of inner peace. When we are dishonest with ourselves it disturbs this peace. When we are dishonest to others it can cause trouble in many ways. It is also compromising our integrity.
Non-stealing (Asteya) – We must not take what is not ours to take. This is not just material goods, or things of a monetary value. This is also energy, love, time. If other people are giving any of these things to us, and our intentions are not honerable, if we are “just using them”, then we are stealing from them. If we are honouring their gifts, showing gratitude and giving back where we can, then we are stealing from them. If we are honouring their gifts, showing gratitude and giving back where we can, then we are exchanging positivity. We must also be careful not to give to those who do not honour us truly want what is best for us. Perhaps you can remember a time when you were showing up for someone, or a group, and giving and giving, and not receiving a genuine thank you, or help in return. Anything more than once or twice and the flow of energy is out of sync. Most of us have been there at some time, and can probably agree it might have felt a bit crappy.
Brahmacharya (Continence, celibacy, or moderation). Again this is rooted in energy exchange. We don’t have to do everything all the time. Drinking too much is not good for us. In moderation, it likely wont kill us. We can opt to be not drink all together. A lot is made about this yama and sex. People often link it to mean we should lead lives of celibacy. This is not strictly true as I understand it though. Most of us would be classed as ‘householders’ and so it is perfectly normal to have a partner and children. Rather we should aim to have one loving partner, rather than lots of casual partners.
Aparigraha (Non-greed, non-grasping). This is about us not wanting all but the necessary things in life. By not being distracted by shiny or trendy “stuff” we are living free from the attachment of their meaningless value. Why do we want more things? This yama is also connected with our desire to receive gifts. Why do we want to receive gifts? Receiving gifts can bind us to the giver, obliges us to give them something in return. When we clear the mind of its desires we gain a greater perspective on how they have influenced us. Free from these constraints we are happier, neutral, and less effected by meaningless and material desires.