Sutra 2.30: ahimsa satya asteya brahmacharya aparigraha yama
When the light of intelligence or the awareness of the truth illumines the mind-stuff, psychological order comes to prevail which is manifest as the following articles of natural self-restraint or discipline: non-violence, perception of what is or truth, non- hoarding, an effortless movement of the total being in cosmic homogeneous essence, and non-covetousness. Translation and interpretation by Swami Venkatesananda
The yamas are the “retraints” of yoga, suggestions for behavior in your interactions with others, or outward practices. The yamas include:
- ahimsa, non-harming
- satya, truthfulness
- asteya, non-stealing
- brahmacharya, non-excess
- aparigraha, non-possessiveness
My teacher has referred to the yamas as pattern deprogramming (and the niyamas then the habit reprogramming) that are offered to help create the conditions for yoga (the big over-arching yoga, which some identify as experience of universal consciousness or connectedness). And there is something in the idea of deprogramming that makes sense, but I can’t help but think that it assumes our existing patterns are different from these five. It suggests that we’ll have developed samskaras (or unconscious patterns) that lead to violence, deceit, stealing, excess, and possessiveness.
I don’t know enough about human behavior to know if that is the case, though I imagine there is nothing black and white about us. And now I’m trying to construct a sentence to suggest what’s in our nature and what comes about through social patterning, and I just can’t land on a statement I trust! Probably because social patterning is part of our nature. How we began is kinda irrelevant (for me) – we all have different tendencies in our relationships with others and the world around us. It benefits each of us (and all of us) to build awareness of our behaviors, notice which do us or others or our environments harm. That process of observing, noticing, and then, if necessary, making a change, is no easy feat and it is a lifelong process. (Kinda like me and my relationship to chocolate; it gets more intense with age.) More often than not, it’s a process made lighter and more successful with the aid of an outside eye, someone, or something, who/that can help you learn to see more clearly on your own.
The yamas and niyamas, and indeed the suggestion of any of the practices of yoga, can guide you to look to specific aspects of behavior, and in that way, this simple list can be the first teacher in this process.
It’s nice to have others, too, though. We are social creatures after all.
Hari om tat sat!
Experience your true self and bring it into every moment of your living!
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are a classical text on yoga–a guidebook of sorts.
Each week, 216 teacher Esther Palmer dives into one of the sutras and we let it take us where it takes us.