Yoga Studies: The Yamas

by Angela Clark

Yoga Studies: The Yamas

At Mala Yoga, the primary goal of our classes to cultivate asana, the physical practice of yoga. We may meditate for a few minutes at the beginning or end of class, but the majority of our time spent in the studio is focused on the physical poses. However, there’s a whole other component to yoga; one of which we we rarely scrape the surface.

The yamas, the restraints, provide an ethical code of conduct for living. If our goal in life is to be happy, healthy, kind and compassionate then Patanjali has set up a blueprint to help us down that path. One of the ways we can put the yamas into our daily yoga practice is through quiet contemplation and/or journaling.

Try this: Have a page dedicated to one of the five yamas and then reflect upon your day. Ask yourself a series of questions about how your day went.

Something to remember is that do not need a long story line behind your reflection. Some days it is simply, “yes, I did this well today,” or “no, I need more time and space to reflect upon my actions.”  When there is more to write, you write, when there is not, don’t worry. Then you can observe other ways to better support yourself the following day.

Try journaling for two weeks and let us know what happens.

The Yamas

(Whenever there is an “a” in front of a word it refers to the absence of the quality or state of the word it is in front of. – the non.)

 Ahimsa: Non-Violence

–   Or non-harming in all things, including thought, speech and action
–   The absence of harm

Was I kind in my speech/actions today or harmful? Who was I harmful to? Myself? Someone else? Where did the harmful actions stem from? Was it a place of pain, was it something brewing for awhile?  And when I was kind in my actions, what support did I have to allow me to act in such a way.

Satya: Truthfulness

–   Or honesty. Can you really cop to what’s arising? This is a big and important part of contemplative practice.

Was I truthful in my speech and actions today? If the answer is No; why was I not truthful?  Was I afraid of what the outcome would be, did I feel I was protecting someone?  Was I acting from a place of fear or good intentions?

Asteya: Non-Stealing

–   Not taking that which is not lawfully yours; the absence of need to take that which does not belong to you, because nothing belongs to you or to me

Did I steal anything today? Was I late to meet someone and steal their time? Did I take something that did not belong to me? Can I give back in my actions tomorrow? Be it time, kind words, or another positive way?

Brahmacharya: Wise use of energy/(Celibacy)

–   Part of ethical behavior of treating all people with equal respect and taking responsibility in dealings with others

Did I use my energy wisely today?  Did I over commit myself?  How do I feel in my body, tired, achy or good?  What did I do that was supportive to my mind and body?  What can I do tomorrow that will support me and keep me healthy?

Aparigraha: Non-Possessiveness/Non-grasping

–   Not accumulating what is not essential, not getting attached to the fruits of one’s labor, doing our best to live simply. When we can let go we can find purpose.

What might have I been clinging onto today? Did I do something that I wanted acknowledgment for? What emotions am I grasping onto?  Why might I be holding onto something? Loss, grief, joy or excitement?  By acknowledging what I am holding onto now, can I hold it in space? Not push it to the side nor cling onto it so tightly?  What might I be able to do tomorrow to help me when I start to feel overwhelmed?


About The Mala Yoga Blog

We are a Brooklyn-based studio that focuses on alignment, balance and community. Have a read, try one of our Practice Podcasts, or come in and say "hi" in person!
This entry was posted in MORE WITH: ANGELA, YOGA STUDIES and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Yoga Studies: The Yamas

  1. Hi, I want to say how well I think you explained the Yamas. This post was very readable–practical, usable and accessible. I’ve just started blogging, and this post is an inspiration.

    • Thank you so much! The yamas are such a huge topic (as you are well aware of) that the thought of tackling them was pretty daunting. We’re so happy this resonated with you, and thank you for letting us know! Congratulations on starting a blog! We can’t wait to read more.

  2. Pingback: Yoga Studies: The Niyamas | MALA YOGA

  3. Pingback: Yoga Studies: The Eight Fold Path | MALA YOGA

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