Welcome to the yoga commandments and welcome to your new yama vinyasa yoga class to strengthen and stretch your upper body, which is really code for strengthening and stretching your loving kindness and truth muscles.
Psst: Wanna explore all five yamas? Come join me inside the Body Mind Soul Studio where the next three months are dedicated to the eight limbs of yoga, with the first month focusing solely on the yamas.
Today we’re bringing our attention to the first limb within the eight limbs of yoga – the yamas.
But before we unpack what the yamas are and why they matter to your yoga and life practice, we first need to understand what the eight limbs of yoga are.
Yoga dates back thousands upon thousands of years and it’s original, most notable mention is in the Vedas – the oldest record of Indian culture. Back then, yoga was not taught how it is today. It was passed directly from teacher to student. There was no formal instruction to be read in a book or followed in a group setting. Students would discover a teacher, move in with them for several years, learn the yoga methodology, and when ready – the student was granted permission to pass the yoga teachings to others.
So what changed this mysterious, very private, exclusive yoga teaching paradigm.
Enter: Patañjali and the Yoga Sūtras.
Somewhere around 500 and 200 B.C., Patañjali (a great Indian sage) gathered the yoga teachings happening behind closed doors and systemized them into one collective text called the Yoga Sūtras. The sutras are a collection of 196 succinct lessons that do two things.
First, they outline our human nature, human potential, and how this potential can be realized.
Second, they outline the entire science of Yoga – it’s aim, the practices, the obstacles that we will meet along the way, how to remove these obstacles, and the results we will attain from doing these practices.
It can be likened to a step-by-step guide for transformational living and the heart of the text is the eight limbs of yoga (also called Ashtanga yoga, not to be confused with the style created by Pattahbi Jois). The eight limbs begin with ethical principles (yamas and niyamas), flow to action (asana and pranayama), transition to the mental (pratyahara and dharana), and end with liberation or unity (dhyana and samadhi).
It’s important to note…..
The limbs are not a linear system, but rather a circular experience. We can begin anywhere within the eight limbs of yoga, which is evident by the millions of people (including me) who begin at the third limb (asana), but if we are curious about how yoga can transform our lives, then it’s not recommended we stay here.
This recommendation is the reason behind today’s new yama yoga class and the next three months inside the Body Mind Soul Studio.
Shall we begin discovering them?
The first limb we encounter is the yamas.
The yamas are defined as ethical observances, disciplines, restraints, attitudes, or behaviors that we cultivate towards things and people outside of ourselves and that which happens within us. They are daily attitudes we want to embrace, both on and off the mat, to create a life we love.
There are five total and below offers a glimpse into what they are and how they can be applied.
The first yama is ahimsā, which means to do no harm, to be non-violent, to act with loving kindness. This ethical guideline is woven into every religion, every nation, and our innate human nature. We are designed to choose the non-violent option, to do what’s right, to have an attitude of friendliness.
This is one of the yamas we will learn and embody during today’s vinyasa yoga class.
Now how do we cultivate and apply ahimsā to our life?
We use it to establish a non-harmful or non-violent way of behaving in relation to our daily life experiences. Experiences like…..
- How we treat our bodies, our self-image
- Developing a calm mind that isn’t persuaded by the inner critic
- Treating our partner with loving kindness
- Practicing non-judgment towards our family members and friends
- Extending friendliness towards strangers
- Practicing yoga without harming our body or psyche
- Committing to our work without harming our body or psyche
- Treating the planet with loving kindness via our actions
Remember, like most spiritual practices, loving kindness begins with us. We must cultivate it within ourselves before we can extend it forward.
Translation: use today’s yoga class and your many self-care practices to tend to your loving kindness garden.
The second yama is satya, which means truthfulness or to speak the truth.
Satya is a complex yama as it involves the words we speak, which consequently affect our and others states of beings. But it also includes the ability to live our truth, which usually doesn’t come easy after decades of conditioning.
To embody this complexity, one must commit to an awakened awareness regarding their speech, and also an unlearning and relearning of what their truth really is.
Now how to apply satya?
For the full explanation and worksheet, I recommend joining the BMS Studio, but below are two questions you can ask yourself on a daily basis.
Am I speaking my truth in conversation, both aloud and within? Am I living my truth in action?
The third yama is asteya, which translates to non-stealing or to only take what belongs to us.
Asteya has roots in every plane of our earthly experience – physical, social, environmental, the psycho-emotional, and spiritual. While asteya might appear as a simple lesson, it’s actually multidimensional, and therefore when put into practice – creates an onion effect of benefits.
Inside the studio, this week is dedicated to uncovering how we steal across these planes, practicing non-stealing daily, and finally – gifting ourselves the gift of a gentle, restorative sequence so we can embody this yama throughout the week.
Wanna put asteya into practice? Click here to join the studio.
The fourth yama is brahmacarya which is typically translated as moderation, widely known as celibacy, and lesser known as a movement towards the essential.
The word brahmacarya is composed of the root car which means “to move,” and the word brahma which means “truth.” When you string these two meanings together, we arrive at – a movement towards the essential truth. I love this newfound definition and have to thank TKV Desikachar’s book, The Heart of Yoga for bringing it to my attention.
With this translation – a movement towards the essential – guiding our efforts, I believe brahmacarya is actually a balancing of energy and through balancing, we arrive at what’s most essential and what’s most truthful – our peaceful nature.
Peaceful nature, what the hell is that?
In our current climate, peace is a rare commodity. We know it exists, many of us here have the tools to experience it, and yet we are pressured to live in the extremes. The extremes are glorified as the place to be, and heck, I’ve lived there for years and still find myself existing here.
But guess what also happens when the pendulum of our energy swings to the extremes? We reach a breaking point. We burn out. We hit a wall. We break the fuck down. We are overwhelmed. We are so tired, so very, very tired.
Anyone been there? Anyone?
This yama is an invitation to stop glorifying the extremes and instead, move towards your essential truth.
Th fifth and final yama is aparigraha, which translates to non-grasping, non-hoarding, non-clinging, to only take what is necessary, to not take advantage of a situation.
Similar to asteya, this yama has roots in several planes of reality – physical, social, mental, emotional, spiritual – with the potential to set us free from fixation.
Physically, aparigraha asks us to stop hoarding, clinging, and grasping to material items.
Socially, aparigraha asks us to explore our relationships and how we might be clinging, grasping, or taking more than we need (psst: this applies to social media too).
Mentally and emotionally, aparigraha invites us to examine the “I AM” statements we hold onto.
Spiritually, aparigraha asks us if we’re clinging to outdated, limiting, false, or fucked-up beliefs? And if we are, can we use the essence of this yama to loosen the grip?
I believe the answer is yes and yes.
Yes, we have beliefs to release and yes, we can use the yamas to set us free.
If discovering and applying the yamas to your yoga and life practice interests you, below is what we’ll be experiencing this month inside the Body Mind Soul Studio:
- Ahimsa + Satya vinyasa yoga class (today’s free class)
- Asteya gentle, restorative class to stop stealing from your energy
- Brahmacarya hatha class that uses your breath to embody balance
- Aparigraha sun salutation power class to let go and release expectations
- Yama Workbook – five yama worksheets + in-depth explanations of each yama
- Bonus – podcast interview with Andrea Dawn that further uncovers the yamas
- Yama gift giveaway – themed book, handmade earrings, custom BMS Studio journal
- Private FB group to garner support and share your yama experiences with
- Plus, access to all the previous studio content!
Want in on the yama journey? Click here to become a studio member.
And with that said JJ fam, I think it’s time we unroll our yoga mats and embody doing no harm and taking no shit.
I’ll meet ya there.
All my yama love,