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The Eight Limbs of Yoga: An Introduction to the Yamas.

A massive welcome to my blog today, thank you so much for taking the time to visit my website. Today, I want to begin a series of posts about the Eight Limbs of Yoga. These are:

1. Yamas (Virtues, 5 in total)

2. Niyamas (Observances, 5 in total)

3. Asanas (Postures)

4. Pranayama (Breath Work)

5. Pratayahara (Control of the Senses)

6. Dharna (Concentration)

7.Dhyana (Meditation)

8. Samadhi (Bliss/Enlightenment)

In our typical yoga class, we will usually only focus on 3 of those 8, Asana, Pranayama, and Dhyana. Postures, breath work and meditation. The other 5 limbs of our practice take place off the mat. In our everyday lives, throughout the busy hustle and bustle of the world.

My post today will focus on the first of the 8 limbs, the yamas. There are 5 yamas in total, and they are basically a list of what not to do if you are looking to reach enlightenment, and live a life free of suffering. I like to think of them as ways to only give out positivity in our lives. As it is often said that what you give out comes back to you. Obviously nobody is perfect, and we all get sad/angry sometimes and we always will. It’s part of being human. But these yamas can help us gain a sense of control, and help us live more harmonious lives. Bringing them into practice is said to bring us closer to enlightenment.

1st Yama - Ahimsa (Nonviolence)

Ahimsa doesn’t just relate to physical violence, but also mental violence. Both to others, and to yourself. This includes thoughts and speech. Ahimsa involves showing compassion to yourself and every living being on this planet. Thinking non harmful thoughts, and not committing any harmful actions fills your life with a much more harmonious energy. Kindness costs nothing, and the more you give out, the more you get back. You can even bring a little ahimsa into your asana practice by moving with love during your postures, and not pushing your body too hard to satisfy the ego.

2nd Yama- Satya (Truthfulness)

Nobody feels good after lying, do they? Satya involves keeping your words and your actions honest. It ties in directly with ahimsa, as lying is a mentally harmful action to yourself and to others. A quote by Mark Forstater in the book Spiritual Teachings of Yoga, states that the less you lie, the easier it is to tell if someone is lying to you. Too many lies cloud the mind with stress and negative energy, so being kind and truthful is a much more blissful way to live.

3rd Yama- Asteya (Non-Stealing)

Asteya of course does involve not stealing someone else‘s belongings, but it also refers to the stealing of someone’s time, someone’s love etc without the intention of returning it. Using someone for your own personal gain is a form of stealing in my opinion. The practice of yoga is a practice of contentment and compassion, and stealing someone’s possessions or time is not in line with the practice of yoga. This relates to Ahimsa also, as stealing from someone is a harmful action towards them.

4th Yama- Brahmacarya (Behaviour that leads to Brahman)

Brahmacarya’s meaning has changed and evolved with the times. Way back when, (and sometimes still), it translated as sexual celibacy or moderation. Nowadays, it has been tweaked a little for the modern world. It translates as ‘behaviour that leads to Brahman’. ’Brahman’ is the Sanskrit word for higher power. A simpler interpritation for it is ‘the right use of our energy’. So not focusing our energy on the temporary pleasures and joys, but focusing our energy more towards finding our own inner peace. This interpretation is the most widely used, as not everyone believes in a God or higher power. That doesn’t mean, however, that they can’t practice yoga.

5th Yama- Aparigraha (Greedlessness)

Greed in this case means constantly taking more than you need. Obviously we are all human and feel the need to treat ourselves once in a while, but yoga is a practice of contentment. It means being thankful for what you have, and not constantly desiring for more objects or more money. Treating ourselves can sometimes be the best thing for our health and there is nothing wrong with it, but if it becomes an obsession or something that is constantly needed, that’s when it can become an interpretation of greed and always needing more. We can put the practice of greedlessness into place by doing simple things such as writing out a gratitude list, and bringing some contentment into our lives.

That concludes this post about the 5 Yamas, the first limb of yoga. In the coming weeks, I will be posting more about the eight limbs, their meanings and how you can bring them into your own lives. I hope this post has given you an understanding of the yamas. Have a think about how you can bring these into your everyday lives if you don’t already, even just one small thing at a time. That’s all from me today, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your day!

Namastè! Becca x

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