Yesterday, I introduced to you the 8 Limbs of Yoga as defined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. Today I would like to go more into more detail on how the Yamas, the restraints of yoga, can help you live a happier life.
As a reminder, the 5 Yamas are:
- Ahimsa – Non-Harming
- Satya – Truthfulness
- Asteya – Non-Stealing
- Brahmacharya – Control
- Aparigraha – Non-Greed
In yoga, the very first principle is to do no harm. How profound for a spirituality to start with being mindful of the harm that we can bring to others, and the harm that we can do to ourselves. Ahimsa reminds us that in order to live a more mindful life, it is imperative to be kind and compassionate to everyone to the best of our ability. This includes being kind and compassionate to ourselves.
The next Yama, Satya, or truthfulness, encourages us to be as honest with people in our lives as we possibly can. The most important person we need to be honest with is ourselves. There are so many people who struggle with being honest in their personal lives.
Do you deny that you have 30, 40, 50, or 60 pounds to lose? Conversely, are you at a healthy weight, but tell yourself you are fat? Do you eat fast food three times a day and believe it is not going to affect your health? Perhaps you are fooling yourself into believing that your mate loves you when she or he really treats you terribly. These are all very common ways in which we lie to ourselves and live in a state of denial. Denial never stays in the dark for long. Sooner or later, it will catch up with you, and it will hurt more later than if you had been honest with yourself from the beginning.
Asteya, non-stealing, literally means not to take things that are not yours, even if no one will know that you took them. If the clerk at the store gives you too much change, give it back. If you find a wallet, turn it in with the cash untouched. If you borrow someone’s idea, give them credit for it. The Yama of Satya comes into play here. Be honest and do not steal, even if you do not think anyone will be harmed. I guarantee you, you will be harmed from not practicing Asteya. Your Spirit, your true Self, will know that taking something that is not yours is wrong, and you will feel guilt over it.
In the Yoga Sutras, when Patanjali refers to Bramacharya, he literally meant celibacy. While that works for a monk who’s job it is to meditate and pray all day every day, in our society, we can use the concept of Bramacharya to mean control of all bodily needs. Do you eat to the point that you feel your stomach might burst? Do you drink to the point that you become a sloppy drunk? Do you constantly think about sex, or eating, or drinking, or smoking, or any other addiction?
If so, you are out of control and you are not living a balanced life. Furthermore, you are not happy. No one who is happy would feel the need to spin out of control. To bring balance into our lives, we must practice moderation in every area. There should not be too much of one thing, because too much of anything can cause harm to the body, the personality, and the spirit.
Finally, we come to the last Yama, Aparigraha, non-greed. Do you have an abundance of food or money, yet are stingy with it? Perhaps you have always thought about donating to worthy causes, but never have. Even if you do not have money to donate, you can still donate your time. Honestly, though, you do not even have to go that far to practice Aparigraha. To be unselfish, all you have to do is give as much love as possible to those around you. A friend is in need is a chance to practice a good deed. The more we give unselfishly, the more we receive.
This brings me back to Satya, to truthfulness. Many of us do not want to ask for help when we need it out of pride. That is a form of dishonesty. If you need help, asking for it gives someone else the change to practice Aparigraha.
When we are unkind to ourselves, when we lie to ourselves, when we take things that are not ours when no one is looking, when we lose control, and when we feel greedy, we feel miserable! No one who lives in this much dishonesty can have self-respect. Furthermore, the way we treat ourselves is a direct representation of how we treat others. So if you cause harm to yourself, you are going to cause harm to others, which is a violation of Ahimsa.
Practicing the 5 Yamas are 5 ways we can bring ourselves 5 steps closer to true happiness. Are there any ways you can better your life using the Yamas? As always, if you have any questions, please comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
With kindness, honesty, and compassion,
As human beings, our purpose is to live meaningful lives, to develop a warm heart. There is meaning in being everyone’s friend. The real source of peace amounst family, friends and neighbours is love and compassion.”
~The Dalai Lama