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  • Writer's pictureAnastasia

What is yoga? Part 4: Yama - Code of Ethics for Yoga

Yoga does not start on the yoga mat. Asanas are just one part of the Eight Limbs, which is not even the first one. Yoga starts with how we treat people around us, how we take care of nature. The First Limb of yoga is called “Yama”, which includes the universal ethical principles underlying all yoga practice, which are ahimsa (harmlessness), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-appropriation of someone else), brahmacharya (sexual moderation), and aparigraha (non-acquisitiveness).

The word "Yama" itself means "limitation", and this often raises questions from those who have just started doing yoga. We tend to associate yoga with openness and expansion - especially in physical exercises, as we are used to measuring progress in practice by the freedom of movement achieved. It seems almost paradoxical that self-restraint is prioritized in classical yoga. Nevertheless, if we intend to study yoga seriously, first we should look through the prism of the Yama principles at our relationship with the outside world. Until we learn to track and control the most obvious, external aspects of ourselves in the interactions with other people and nature, we should not hope for changes at a more subtle level.

Patanjali in Yoga Sutras does not tell us that hurting others, lying, stealing, and indulging our greed is bad. Rather, he is trying to convey to us the following: such behavior makes us suffer more. We cannot end our own suffering by inflicting it on others.

If you want to do yoga every day, but you do not have a possibility to make asanas your daily practice, you can always practice the First Limb of Yoga - Yama, by taking care of the people around you, showing attention to them, serving others where possible, and preserving nature.

I wish you amazing Yama practice every day!

Stay safe.


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