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Yamas: The Great Universal Vows

May 24, 2009
Altar for Sri K. Pattabhi Jois at Jivamukti right now

Altar for Sri K. Pattabhi Jois at Jivamukti right now

“Yogash chitta-vritti-nirodah.  Yoga is realized when identification with the fluctuations of the mind ceases.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    -Yoga Sutras I:2              
“Jati desa kala samayanavacchin0nah sarvabhauma mahavratam.  The Great Vows are universal, not limited by class, time or circumstance.”                                                                                                                                                                                                    -Yoga Sutras II:31                                                                                                                                        
As I mentioned in my ahimsa post, Ashtanga means yoga following the 8-limb path, as elucidated by Patanjali in his yoga sutras.  The 8 limbs begin with guidelines for interacting with others and finish with ultimate bliss and Self-realization.  They show us the path for gaining control of the mind and escaping constant mental clutter and emotional ups and downs.  The 8 limbs are yama (social discipline), niyama (individual discipline), asana (the physical practice we all think of as yoga), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (sense control), Dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (self-realization). 

The Yamas are the first limb of Ashtanga yoga and are meant as guidelines for how we interact with society.  They are social, moral codes thought of as great, universal vows.  The yamas are:

  • Ahimsa: Non-harming.  Do not cause pain to others through thought, word, or action.
  • Satya: Truthfulness.  Be true to yourself and to others, always and without exception.
  • Asteya: Non-stealing.  Do not take what isn’t yours.
  • Brahmacharya: Moderation/Continence.  Practice moderation sexually and materially.
  • Aparigraha: Greedlessness.  Do not desire that which isn’t yours and don’t hoard.

The purpose of the yamas is to begin to focus your intention and purify the mind and body.  Undertaking these moral restraints is the first step in trying to live yoga.  Think about your efforts as creating positivity and fairness in your own life and the world.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2009 12:31 am

    Thank you Kyle for such a clear and positive site.
    When you are in LA, come to Seed restaurant on
    Pacific and Windward in Venice. Even your non Veg
    friends will enjoy it .

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