The 8 limbs of Yoga: Part 1

The Yamas Today

The Yoga Sutras state the 8 limbs of Yoga. Most of us start with or only practice numbers three and four. You may find like most that after a while the physical practice leads to a linking of the other six in your daily life. The limbs are as follows:

  1. Yama “Morals”
  2. Niyama “Ethics or rules”
  3. Asana “Postures”
  4. Pranayama “Breathing”
  5. Pratyahara “Withdrawal of the senses”
  6. Dharana “Concentration”
  7. Dhyana “Meditation”
  8. Samadhi “Nirvana”

There are five yamas and I feel the need to take some time to discuss them and what they mean to me in this day and age. The Yoga Sutras were written so long ago and I find it so amazing that they are still relevant and hold truth in this world. The Yamas mean our morals or codes for how we act, speak, think, ect. They are as follows:

1. Ahimsa “non-violence”

2. Satya “truthfulness”

3. Asteya “non-stealing”

4. Brahmacharya “celibacy or restraint”

5. Aparigraha “non-greediness”

What the Yamas mean to me in today:

Ahimsa is translated as non-violence. This obviously means not acting in a way to harm any living being. What people don’t realize is this includes harming yourself. In yoga asana (physical postures) it is important to use ahimsa. We need to listen to the body and not push ourselves too far just to get into a pose you want to be in. Over use or neglect of sensations or pain is violence against yourself.

Satya is truthfulness. To me this doesn’t just mean not lying about what you did or didn’t do. This truth goes deeper, being true to yourself. It includes honest behavior and good intention in your life and what you choose to do. Once again this is used in the physical practice by being truthful with yourself about how you are feeling for the day and making smart decisions based on that to provide yourself with a safe practice. Don’t lie to yourself, if something doesn’t feel good or right BACK OUT. This also means leading a life that follows your inner voice. For example: as a vegetarian I could no longer work at a restaurant because they serve nothing but smoked meat and it made me feel uncomfortable.

Asteya means non-stealing. So obviously don’t take things that don’t belong to you. Always pay your dues when it comes to what you have. You will feel better if you earn it. Asteya also means to me that you live a less materialistic life. We are not entitled to a lot of the things we hold as important today. It is important that we not intimidate anyone into giving us something that is not rightfully ours.

Brahmacharya to some means literally celibacy. Today obviously the likelihood of that is pretty slim. That is ok! Celibacy is meant as a means to conserve energy for spiritual growth instead of exerting it through sex. It is important to practice moderation and appreciation. This is a merging of two energies and an expression of love. It should be treated as such. This means no multiple partners, and also no sexual encounters done for greedy needs or a need for acceptance. Sex should not come from manipulation or immature infatuation or flirtation. It encompasses a merging with someone that needs to be treated and respected as such.

Aparigraha is non-greediness. It is taking time to learn what you need and what is simply a want or desire. If we made a list now of needs it will be much shorter then a list of desires…that list could go on for days. Measure your worth by who you are, not by what you can obtain or possess. Instead of feeling like you need more, take time to appreciate what you have. You should take time to appreciate your life, your breath, your friends, and the fact that you live in a healthy body that allows you to enjoy all of these things.

I hope this is helpful to anyone studying the 8 limbs of Yoga. I find it easier to understand them when I make them relatable rather than intangible. I plan to dive deeper into the Niyamas next and then we will see from there 🙂


Sara D.

3 responses to “The 8 limbs of Yoga: Part 1

  1. Thank you for this! I am finally practicing the asanas and meditation and breath work again regularly and I feel so much better. I appreciate this lesson in the yamas, because although I am familiar with them I always need a brush up! Plus, your interpretations work really great for me! You are a wonderful teacher, I can’t wait to come visit and experience one of your classes!! ❤

  2. Thanks Kaycie. I find myself constantly going back to these 8 limbs. It is amazing that throughout the years you can study the same thing over and over and grasp a different meaning each time. I think this is a good sign of growth and healthy change. Never brush something aside with the “been there, done that” attitude. I think each time you do something it is a new experience. Even with yoga practice, you can do the same set of poses everyday and never feel the same exact sensation twice.

  3. Pingback: Allow Healing Energies in Your Life | joyful cacophony·

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