Working yoga’s yamas.
The yamas are the external disciplines of yoga lifestyle and also thought of as the five restraints. What fun is that to have restraints? Geez, yoga peeps are just no fun at all! Can’t I just work on touching my toes and call it yoga? If you are reading this then I know that you know that there is more to yoga than just being able to touch your toes. In fact, it doesn’t make one iota of difference to me if you can touch your toes or if you can’t. What perks my ears up and tingles my mind are your thoughts and attitude towards touching your toes. Now we’re talking yoga. There is no guarantee that if you can touch your toes you will live a happier healthier life. However, if you work the yamas, you are at least heading in the direction of living a happier healthier life and a bi-product may be that you eventually touch your toes. And if this day ever happens, you probably won’t remember why it was such a big deal to begin with.
Please give a warm welcome to the yamas! Ahinsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, aparigraha.
So exotic! Yes, be intrigued. If you work the yamas the way Gisele works a bathing suit or for my benefit (putting bramacharya on the side for a sec) the way Jack White works a guitar, your life will change. How you can change your life is to work on your karma (this is a whole other discussion, but I leave you in the good hands of Dr. Miles Neale). You can work on your karma via the yamas. Recognizing when you are straying from a yama or practicing a yama is the key here. The results of practicing the yamas are peace, success, wealth, power, and freedom.
Gratuitous personal photo of Mr. Jack White working his guitar during a phenomenal show with Wanda Jackson. I felt way too creepy looking at photos of Gisele online with the intention of posting them for this article. If I had a personal picture of her, then I would post it.
First on the list is ahinsa (non-violence).
The obvious aspect of not harming is of course the physical act of violence and the intention to hurt another sentient being. You starting hearing this from the get go, “Tommy, don’t hit your baby sister, it’s not nice.” Going deeper with ahinsa are harmful thoughts towards self and other. “I am not good at anything.” “She looks fat in that dress.” People have these kind of thoughts all of the time. Abide by ahinsa and you cultivate peace. When a society is grounded in nonviolence an atmosphere is created where others can let go of their hostility.
Would you like to be successful? Satya
There are many different ways to define and view success. For instance, how about reaching a goal or to have a favorable outcome? When you practice the second yama, satya, translated as truthfulness, the outcome is success. Geshe Michael Roach translates Patanjali’s Sutra 2.36 Satya pratishthayam kriya phala shrayatvam – “If you make it a way of life always to tell the truth, then anything you undertake will have a successful result.” The truth is authentic and whole. Much like oatmeal, the truth will set you free.
Number three on the list is asteya (not stealing).
The outcome of not stealing is wealth. Not only should one not take what isn’t freely given to them, there is also the more subtle version of asteya like stealing someone’s time. Yoga is discovering and living the subtleties in what seems obvious. If you want to take your practice of asteya up a notch, you can even think about giving (dana). Generosity breeds wealth. Wealth comes in many forms, not just monetary. Health, happiness, ease of life, joy from simple pleasures are experienced by those who practice asteya.
Brahmacharya, the fourth restraint.
For today’s practitioner, brahmacharya can be viewed as conscious use of sexual energy or restraint from indiscriminate sexual behavior. The texts back in the day flat out said celibacy for yogis. Working this yama in modern times, consider honoring the relationship you are in. If you are engaging in sex, is it a healthy, normal level or are you obsessed and demanding? Obsession about anything is never a good thing. Are you loving and caring with the person you are having sex with? Seems like the obvious answer would be yes, but this is not always so with all the “hooking up” that is happening these days. Are you actually making love or just having sex? When you get brahmacharya figured out, you will have power.
Aparigraha (non possessiveness) is the fifth yama and when practiced will lead you to freedom.
Freedom comes to those who stop wanting and coveting. Not only should you not be greedy, but you can share. To practice aparigraha is to know that you have all that you need. If you are fortunate enough to have multiple homes, cars, “things”, share them unconditionally. They are only things and meant to be enjoyed. Coveting and desiring only leads to dissatisfaction. “If only I had a new _______, I’d be happy” this is just not true. There is happiness and contentment for you right in this moment if you can see that you have all that you need.
Action = Karma
Write down the 5 yamas and what they mean. Contemplate how you honor and practice the yama and where you can use some work. This is how change happens. Be the changes you want to be. No one else can do this for you. It’s work, hence working the yamas.
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