Yogic Discipline: An Overview of Yama


Yama are the most basic moral principles that a yogi must obey.

Contemporary yoga in the West maintains a strong focus on yogic instruction from the orientation of the physical postures – or asana, which we will cover in the next section. While asana have a great utility for the purpose of stabilizing the body and mind, it is first of primary importance that the practitioner observe essential yogic discipline that forms the true base of a sincere yoga practice.

Here in this section, we will cover the second and third limbs of yoga: the yamas and the niyamas. Yamas are external restraints that the yogi should follow to create the type of life that does not interfere with one’s practice. The niyamas are the internal disciplines that must be followed to establish the mind state where deeper meditative progress is possible.

Video Commentary: Restraint (Yama)

the 5 yamas

Video Transcript


The Five Yamas – the external restraints.

The first limb of yoga practice is yama. Yama means external restraint. This helps to guide the practitioners while living in the outside world.

There are five yamas:

  1. Ahimsa (non-harming) – This includes not causing harm to others as well as to yourself, neither by thoughts, words, nor actions.
  2. Satya (truthfulness) – This includes upholding honesty, forgiveness, and non-judgement.
  3. Asteya (non-stealing) – This involves not taking things or resources from others. And requires developing a sense of self-sufficiency and properly managing one’s resources.
  4. Brahmacharya (sensory control) – This involves managing emotions and how you direct your energy.
  5. Aparigraha (non-possessiveness) – This involves letting go of greed and seeking only what is needed

So these five yamas help us to attain peace and stability as we live in the outside world.

Video: The Highest Law (Ahimsa)

Video Transcript


Do you act in harmful ways?

Sat Nam, I’m Will Keyser and today we will briefly consider how harm may be preventing you from living your best life.

The foundation of yoga is discipline. Discipline that creates the type of life, which fosters personal and spiritual growth. One of the fundamental types of discipline in yoga is ahimsa. Ahimsa is also a primary tenant of many major world religions and life philosophies. Ahimsa means ‘without harm’ or ‘non-harming’. But what kind of harm and to whom?

Harm can have two directions: inward and outward. Inward harm means harming yourself. Outward harm means harming others. A commitment to embrace the discipline of ahimsa requires that you do not hurt or kill others and that you cease inner dialogue that is not loving.

When your actions, words, and thoughts cease to harm yourself and others, that negativity and karma in your life will dissipate and you will experience more positive feelings, more self-love, and a greater sense of self-worth.

Since we are all connected in the karmic universe and creating this civilization together, harm to ourselves is also harm to others and harm to others is also harm to ourselves. Action is reflexive in nature. By practicing non-harming, you will develop more compassion and patience in your life that will enable personal growth and realization.

Task: Your task today is to observe in a mindful way those moments when you practice negative conversation both in your mind as well as with people around you. Instead of acting on those harmful impulses, remember that it is always you who will suffer. If you truly embrace ahimsa, your actions will do no harm.

Ahimsa is the highest law

(Ahimsa Paramo Dharma)

अहिंसा परमॊ धर्म

*Quoted from the great law book of Hinudism, the Manu Smriti

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