The 5 yamas make up the first of the 8 limbs of yoga. According to Patanjali, the sage who wrote the yoga sutra, these 5 values are a set of moral guidelines by which you can live happily and righteously. Knowing the meaning of the yamas and incorporating them into your yoga can create a more holistic practice and help you live a fulfilling life.


Practicing The Yamas On and Off the Mat

Practicing yoga is not just about knowing the 5 yamas; it is about incorporating them into your life both on and off your yoga mat. Here is an introduction to the yamas and a few ways to bring the yamas into your yoga classes and your life!

1. Ahimsa – Compassion, Non-violence

The first yama is about putting aside violence and finding compassion for all living things. This practice is all about moving away from violent tendencies and instead finding empathy. Living by this yama means having love for your friends and family, for the world you live in, and especially for yourself! Some ways to put this yama into action include:

On Your Mat

  • Have compassion for your body. Avoid pushing your body too hard and overtiring yourself when your body is craving rest.
  • Many people get bogged down in their weaknesses on the mat without thinking about their strengths. Focus instead on successes on your mat and do not dwell on areas for growth.
  • Share positive energy with those around you in your yoga class.

Off Your Mat:

See Also: 12 Ways to Practice Ahimsa (Non-Violence) Everyday

2. Satya – Honesty, Truth

Practicing satya means being truthful with yourself and those around you. This practice is about not only telling the truth when asked direct questions but also being honest with yourself and those around you. While answering questions truthfully is easy, being fully honest with yourself may be more challenging! Try some of the following ways to practice satya:

On Your Mat:

  • Set realistic expectations for how often you will practice. If you would like to practice a certain number of times per week, make that your intention and hold yourself accountable.
  • Accept limitations your body may have on the mat.
  • Listen to your body during your practice and be mindful of what feels good and what does not.

Off Your Mat:

  • Being honest with yourself about your own expectations and capabilities at home, at work, and in relationships.
  • Speaking openly with those in your life when you need to set boundaries. (Read more: Harnessing The Power Of “No.”)
  • Be truthful not only about negative things in your life but also positive things! If someone says or does something special for you, be sure to speak up about it.

See Also: Practicing Satya On and Off the Mat: A Comprehensive Guide

3. Asteya – Non-stealing

The third yama translates to “non-stealing” and “non-coveting.” The basics of this yama are easy to understand: this practice simply means not stealing or not taking things that do not belong to you. In a larger sense, this practice speaks to not using depleting resources and not wasting time, money, and other valuable commodities in a larger sense. Some ways to practice asteya include:

On Your Mat:

  • Bring your full attention into your yoga practice while on the mat so as to be mindful of your time. This includes listening to your body while on the mat and incorporating any poses your body is craving.
  • Come to class on time.
  • Avoid rushing through poses. Instead, take the time to do each pose mindfully.

Off Your Mat:

See Also: Asteya (Non-Stealing) in Yoga: Definition & Practice Guide

4. Brahmacharya – Right Use of Energy

The fourth yama, Brahmacharya, has historically been translated to mean “celibacy.” In modern times, many practitioners interpret this yama as “the right use of energy” rather than chastity. This means putting your energy into meaningful tasks and practicing self-control when you are tempted by poor uses of energy. Some ways to put this yama into action include:

On Your Mat:

  • Avoid comparing yourself to others during class.
  • Bring your attention to large muscle groups you are using in each pose and work with your teacher to determine how to do each pose with minimal use of energy.
  • Choose yoga practices that will fuel what you are feeling such as those that will help you relax or energize, depending on what your body needs.

Off Your Mat:

  • Make an effort to stop overthinking.
  • Do things in moderation. Many people have the tendency to consume food, alcohol, television, or time on their phone in excess. Be mindful of this tendency!
  • Put your time and energy into relationships that make you feel good. At the same time, make an effort to avoid toxic and ambivalent relationships.

See Also: Brahmacharya: Using the Fourth Yama to Add Moderation to Your Life

5. Aparigraha – Detachment

The final yama, Aparigraha, means detachment. This means letting go of things that are bringing you down, moving away from self-comparison, and bringing your energy inward. This may mean detachment from physical possessions, from overthinking, or from anything else that is bringing you down. Some ways to practice aparigraha on and off the mat include:

On Your Mat:

  • Focus on your breath and how that energy moves through you throughout the entirety of your practice.
  • Be mindful of your movements on your mat.
  • Incorporate meditation to clear your mind into your practice if do you not already.

Off Your Mat:

See Also: Aparigraha: A Guide to the Fifth and Final Yama in Yoga

We hope you find incorporating the yamas into your yoga practice and your life enjoyable and rewarding! To further explore the yamas, check out our ultimate guide to the yamas and niyamas.

Megan Herndon
Author

Megan is a Seattle-based writer who covers health and wellness. She has worked in content marketing and journalism for a number of organizations including The Seattle Globalist, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and The Jakarta Globe. She has a BA in journalism from the University of Washington and is currently working on her second UW degree, a Master of Communication and Digital Media. Born and raised in Hawaii and currently embracing the Pacific Northwest lifestyle, Megan loves all things active and outdoors including hiking, camping, outrigger canoe paddling, and yoga.

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