Yoga is made up of eight ‘limbs’, the first of which is Yama – this is the practice of abstinence, for actions which we are taught to restrain ourselves from. In total, there are five practices which are taught to be avoided.
The first practice is Ahisma, which is the practice of non-violence. This involves not only making sure we note our actions and how we behave around people but also how our words and thoughts will affect other around us. We are all aware of how physical acts of violence will affect people, but many ignore how their energy or hurtful words may harm others. Ahisma teaches us to be conscious of projecting a loving energy and being more considerate of people’s feelings.
Asteya is the second practice which teaches non-stealing. This isn’t just stealing from shops or robbing a bank, it also involves not taking from others or taking what we don’t need or use. This is more than simply material goods, it also involves things we cannot see such as energy. Yoga teaches that draining the emotional atmosphere from those around us or bringing the mood of others down counts as emotional and energetic stealing. Similarly, if you take or acquire things that you don’t use or that sit stored in your home for years unused, this is also considered stealing from people who could use it, such as the homeless or the unemployed. Each time you waste water or leave plugs or electrical devices running when you’re not at home think of those who may need it more – Asteya teaches not to be wasteful.
The third practice is to live life honestly – this is the practice of Satya. We are taught to live a life of truth and never to cheat or deceive others or ourselves. Many people lie out of self-delusion – we want to be perceived in a certain way and this leads to dishonesty as a way of obtaining people’s approval. Satya teaches to be honest about who you are and what you want, which involves being humble and asking for forgiveness for any deceptiveness we may have been involved in.
The fourth practice, Brahmacharya, teaches the art of self control, both mentally and physically. This art surrounds the idea of being in control of our egos and creating a harmonious and selfless relationship with people we meet. Finally, the fifth is the practice of non-hoarding, known as Aparigraha. Yoga practices this art as a way of not collecting or clinging to objects and people alike – the practice of letting go and improving mental clarity is important here.
These five practices of Yama teach the basic principles for developing a clear mind and enabling us to let go of the constraints our egos place upon us. They provide the skeleton for an honest and responsible life which teaches us to be better people who take care of our thoughts and actions.