RAJA YOGA: YAMAS - EXTERNAL PRACTICES




Hello every body, welcome to Atma's blog. Today we are going to talk about Yamas, the first limb of Raja Yoga. Yamas make reference to how we relate with our environment and outer world. There are 5 Yamas or external practices that form the first limb of Raja Yoga. These are: Ahimsa or non-violence, Satya or truth, Asteya or honesty, Brahmacharya or moderation and Aparigraha or limited belongings.


Ahimsa

Ahimsa refers to non-violence. In the context of yoga non-violence means to abstain from intentionally harming other creatures; this is a simple principle but quite difficult to practice. At an initial stage Ahimsa is easier to follow because you consciously take the decision to not harm others. However, with time you start to question other aspects of non-violence. For example: if someone hits you or is aggressive with you, are you willing to let it go without any sort of response? In this case our ego makes it quite difficult to not react because we identify ourselves with the situation. Eventually non-violence also makes you question what you eat. And although the purpose of this post is not to start a debate about animal cruelty, and meat eating, eventually it is something you will question when you fully embrace Ahimsa.


Satya

Satya refers to truthfulness and it is the second Yama. In this case, to practice Satya means to see and speak about the things as they are and not as we want them to be. The word Satya means “what it exists is what it is”. In many situations, we want reality to adapt to our own views of the world. We want things to be how we want them to be, causing a complete distortion of how things really are. Satya involves acceptance of the true nature of things. Accepting things how they really are allows us to walk the path of truth.


Asteya

Asteya, refers to honesty. In this case honesty is directly linked to not taking what is not freely given.

This can be in the form of material objects, but also taking advantage of others on the emotional and spiritual level. Asteya requires us to be honest with ourselves and accept that what is not meant for us is not for us; in the current society we live in, this is difficult to practice. We are constantly trying to take what others have whether its money, power or fame.


Brahmacharya

Brahmacharya refers to sense moderation, and it is a controversial practice. It is a controversial practice, because Brahmacharya often refers to moderation of sexual activities, and in the west sex is seen as a basic human need. Yoga does not impose sexual abstinence on the practitioner, instead, it recommends the practitioner to moderate sexual practices, in order for the mind to move beyond sex. Brahmacharya can be applied not only to sexual activities but any other actions that bind the mind to the senses. The mind is constantly looking for gratification through the senses, and it is our job to understand that sense gratification is temporary and does not last. By understanding this we can focus our entire energy on pursuing higher states where the play of the senses does not bind us.


Aparigraha

Aparigraha refers to limited belongings. Yoga encourages us to let go of all those possessions that we don’t really need. In the current materialistic world we live in, this practice is more relevant than ever. We are constantly trying to accumulate wealth in the form of material possessions. We think these possessions will provide us security, power and comfort. However, these are all impermanent, and we will eventually have to give them up. By practicing Aparigraha we can focus on those things that are required for living, and move beyond our false need of accumulation.


When looking into the five different Yamas, it is important to understand that these practices are not intended to deprive the practitioner from any action, but to reduce the actions that cause fluctuations within the mind. These practices, are preparatory for the other seven limbs of yoga. They are all preparatory for meditation and Samadhi, because if your mind is not still meditation cannot take place.