The Yamas - their relevance today

Saturday, 05 September 2020 18:22
In last week’s blog I mentioned that Asana is the third limb of the 8 limbs of Yoga, as described in the second chapter of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
So today we are going to explore the first limb - the Yamas.
Georg Feuerstein begins his insightful book, Yoga Morality - Ancient Teachings at a Time of Global Crisis, Hohm Press, 2007:
“When people think of Yoga, they most likely think of physical fitness and twisted postures. Those who are better informed know that Yoga is India’s age-old tradition of spiritual realisation aiming at inner freedom and the overcoming of suffering through the transcendence of the ego, or ‘I-maker’. Thus Yoga is primarily spiritual practice, or spirituality.” (p.1)
Very nicely put, yes?
This is where the Yamas come in. The Yamas are the moral codes that come first in the practice of Yoga. They are first limb. Where are they placed in your lives today? Are they relevant?
Many of us were brought up with Christianity ideology. With this brought an understanding of the 10 commandments. This is a list of the commandments that relate directly to the Yamas. 
Thou shalt not kill (don’t kill) - Ahimsa
Thou shalt not steal (don’t steal) - Asteya
Thou shalt not commit adultery - (restrain yourself) - Brahmacharya
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour (don’t lie) - Satya
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife - (don’t covet) Aparigraha
There seems to be a clear distinction between Christian moral code and the Yogic definition of correct living. The Christian doctrine is the word of God and is mandatory in Christian belief. Feuerstein says this path ‘is based on submission to an external authority that dictates to the believer what is right and wrong’ (p.9). In our understanding of Yogic Philosophy we are encouraged to find the Divine within ourselves and in all things, through our practice. This is the essence of enlightenment. Through the practice of asana, pranayama, pratyhara, the inward journey helps to develop a clear path to the Yamas. This gives us the opportunity for self-study (svadhyaya) and through reflection creates a deep understanding of how the Yamas ‘form the framework of rules on which society is based’. (BKS Iyengar in his commentary on Sutra 11.31 in Light on the Yoga Sutras on Patanjali, Thorsons, p.143)
The Sutras guide us to an understanding so we find our own way to a mode of living for the universal good. 
The 5 Yamas are:
Ahimsa (non-violence) 
Satya (truthfulness) 
Asteya (non-stealing)
Brahmacharya (moderation of the senses/right use of energy/restraint) 
Aparigraha (non-greed/non-coveting)
Through our practice we develop feeling, sensitivity and empathy. Universal harmony spreads from the individual outwards. It requires discipline and as Feuerstein says “There are no shortcuts to inner freedom.” (p.174)
Get on your mat and find your universal good :)
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Nicole Schroeter
Yoga Path
An Iyengar Yoga School
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Newport Vic 3015
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