If you’re new to yoga, you’re probably familiar with the physical elements — such as postures and meditation — but you may not be aware of the larger principles behind yoga. Yoga is an ancient practice made up of 8 limbs that help you live a meaningful and purposeful life. The first of these 8 limbs are the 5 yamas, or moral practices of yoga. These values can guide your thoughts and actions on and off the yoga mat.


What Are The 5 Yamas?

The 5 yamas encompass a number of values you can apply to your yoga practice and life as a whole. These ideas can be interpreted in a number of ways but have a general overarching meaning. The following is an overview of each of the yamas.

1. Ahimsa – Compassion, Non-violence

The first of the 5 yamas is ahimsa, living your life full of compassion and without violence. This practice helps you move away from harmful tendencies and instead find compassion for all living things. Having compassion for yourself can also be a great means of practicing ahimsa. This may mean not being too hard on yourself and practicing self-love.

2. Satya – Honesty, Truth

Satya, living an honest and truthful life, is the second yama. Practicing satya means being honest with yourself and those around you. You can incorporate satya into your work, relationships, and more. From being open and honest with your friends and family to being truthful with yourself about things that are bringing you down, you can practice this yama in big and small ways.

3. Asteya – Non-stealing

Asteya translates to “non-stealing” and “non-coveting.” At its root, this yama means refraining from taking things that do not belong to you. In a larger sense, practicing asteya means being mindful and not wasteful of the things you use in your life. From making good use of your time at work to being mindful of how you’re using other people’s time when they share it with you, practicing asteya may help you live a more mindful and less wasteful life!

4. Brahmacharya – Right Use of Energy

Brahmacharya can be interpreted in a number of different ways. Some practitioners believe brahmacharya to mean celibacy. However, not all yogis interpret this yama in that way. In modern times, many yogis interpret it to mean the “right use of energy” and channeling your body’s energy for productive uses. This may mean having strong impulse control and not wasting your physical and mental energy on things that are bringing you down.

5. Aparigraha- Detachment

Aparigraha, or detachment, is the last of the 5 yamas. This idea speaks to the importance of letting go of things that do not serve you. Practicing this value may mean physically cleaning your space and getting rid of things you do not need. It may also mean moving away from self-sabotage or detaching from negative thoughts through mindfulness and meditation.

Want to begin or enrich your mindfulness practice? Check out our library of online yoga and meditation classes on Alo Moves.

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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