Yamas: The Yoga Guide to an Amazing Social Life

Written by Rose Moore

September 21, 2021

 

Yamas are the way you can be a respectable person in your community. Yoga is not an isolationist conquest, meaning* we will still live in a society. Because people can be capricious,* these are the easiest guidelines to make the least trouble in your social life. Not only that, it is a recipe to gain the respect of your colleagues, peers, family, and friends.

*annoying

In the 8 limb path of yoga, yamas are said to be the easiest branch to start your practice of yoga. Wonder why?  I think it is because humans are hardwired to generally be social creatures. The first outcomes of yama integrity can be immediate, at the slightest smile or the biggest gesture of bonding you can think of.

So how do you become the most trusted person in town?

There are 5 yamas

Some values are universal, I believe these are examples of integrity along all cultures. We may disagree in what ways or regards, but we all would be healthy to strive for:

  1.  Ahimsa – non violence

  2. Satya – honesty

  3. Asteya non stealing

  4. Brahmacharya – chastity

  5. Aparigraha – non possessiveness

EASY RIGHT????!

Yama momma, yama llama, yama-bff

Here are some rad quotes about the yamas and niyamas for all of you quote collectors:

“The Yamas & Niyamas are the foundation of skillful living. [They] are like a detailed map, telling you where you are and how to look for the next landmark. The Yamas and Niyamas free you to take ownership of your life and direct it towards the fulfillment you seek. Gaining the skills to choose attitude, thought and action may be the grandest adventure you can choose” – Deborah Adele

deepok chopra:

        “All spiritual and religious traditions encourage people to live ethical lives. Yoga agrees but concedes that living a life in perfect harmony with your environment is difficult from the level of morality—through a prescribed set of “shoulds” and “should-nots.” Patanjali, describes the yamas as the spontaneously evolutionary behavior of an enlightened being… We see[niyamas] as the qualities naturally expressed in an evolutionary personality… Again, these qualities do not arise by making a mood of moral self-righteousness, but they emerge as aresult of a person living a natural, balanced life… Like ideal social conduct, evolutionary personal qualities derive from your connection to spirit” – Deepak Chopra & David Simon, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga © 2004 pgs 32 & 36

 

Ahimsa, or Non Violence

Poses to try: Heros pose, childs pose, forward fold

Hero pose, be your own hero
Hero pose, or virasana. stand tall on your knees, curl your toes under, and bring your sitting bones to your heals so that your pelvis is neutral. Raise your rib cage, relax your shoulders back, bring your hands to your knees with pointer finger to thumb
Hang loose in a forward fold
stand tall in tadasana, bend your knees slightly, hinge at your pelvis so that your chest comes forward and then down, making sure to keep your shoulders rolled back in space to give your neck space.
childs pose balasana to comfort yourself
Childs pose, balasana: from a table top position bring your legs as wide as the mat, feet touching. crawl with your hands foward bringing your forehead to the mat. breathe, relax, there is nothing to fear

Ok so there are two types of violence.

Violence towards others

and

violence towards yourself.

These are separate ideas however if you stop beating yourself up you will  have a better time finding non violence towards others.

I don’t want you to beat yourself up. It is so normal, so common, and so painful.

It is also painful to beat someone else up.

Being non violent is hard, by the way. Not reacting to negativity, when it really feels like the best thing to do, its hard!

ok heres where i’m going to rant a moment, if you don’t want my petty take scroll down to the next block quote: This is the most internet policed yama. It is easy to make judgements online about how other people act, how other people talk, how other people other people other people. If you go onto any yoga group on social media you will at some point here ‘AHIMSA!! HOW DARE YOU USE THAT WORD(whatever you happen to have said) YOU ARE BEING VIOLENT BY TALKING THE WAY YOU DO YOU MIGHT HURT SOMEONE.’ Can you tell I spend a lot of time online???

Anyway, This point of view, if you’ve ever encountered it, can feel like fingers are being pointed at you, even if you are speaking in honesty which is another one of these yamas. You can never know if someone is going to take your truth and feel hurt.

Disagreement is not violence, but it can lead to violence.

darkness cannot drive out darkness
Martin Luther King was a modern day yogi in my opnion. He preached for unity, love, forgiveness, and if you listen really carefully… he embodied yoga philosophy.. in my opinion!
Darkness cannot drive out darkness
only light can do that
hate cannot drive out hate
only love can do that
Martin Luther King JR.

 

  • Some questions for reflection:

    • How do I beat myself up?
    • How can I spread peace?
    • How can I forgive?
    •  How do you beat other people up? why?

Satya or honesty

Satya, or honesty, means being honest with yourself. This mudra, the dhyanna mudra, calms the mind and lets all of the static thoughts fade away. A common posture for meditation. try it somet time!

Dyani mudra: with your four fingers together, bring your left hand to you lap, right hand rests on top. Touch your thumbs together

How simple right? Just be honest all the time right? Well, its not always that easy because we have unconscious desires, unconscious motivations unconscious biases. This isn’t a bad thing, but if you are not in tune with these

If we don’t say yes authentically

we say yes resentfully,

and that leads to far more problems

than if we had said no in the first places

Nat Lue

always mean what you say

  •  
  • So ask yourself

    • Where in your life do you feel you have to suppress yourself?
    • How would it be different if you were to tell the truth?
    • Do you have a safe place to write your most inner thoughts?
    • Do you have any secrets?
    • Can you build and respect boundaries with your loved ones?

Another note

  • I think chastity and non possessiveness go really well together to create a purity in your life. Conjure the image of your inner temple once more. Start to take note of details. What time of the day is it? Where is the door? Are you inside or outside? Find a comfortable spot within this vision. Keep adding details to your temple until you fade into the twilight state of savasana. Enjoy~~

Asteya non stealing

If you read a lot of yoga related material you’ll start to sense that no one wants to take credit for their own work! Why? Because they know they could never have done it alone. In Autobiography of a Yogi by yoganonda, for instance, he spends more time talking about the men who taught him, than anything he ever did himself!

I love this way of writing and reflecting–without having to be so self referential!

So i ask you, who has taught you? Who has helped you shape yourself to the person who you are? Do you give them credit? Or do you feel particularly individualist?

To the individualists in the room, I feel for you. I know you work really hard for what you’ve made for yourself, but did you do it in a vacuum?

Other side of the coin, what can you take credit for?

There is a balance, it is asteya

open your hands and offer what you can
bring the long edges of your pinkies together, open your hands, cup them slightly, in a gesture of good will

Pushpaputa the giving MUDRA – make a cup with you’re your pinky sides of your hands together and thumbs on the outside. giving is kind of the opposite of stealing

Think about these ideas:

    • Always cite your sources!!!
    • Who has inspired you?
    • Who has disgusted you?
    • Who has helped you along the way?
    • Who can help you walk your path?
    • Who can i give credit to, today?

 

Brahmacharya chastity

Mmmm you know that feeling when you get out of the wash, feeling so pure and clean, a load off your body right??

or clean sheets? Mmmm it feels so good to sleep in newly cleaned laundry

that’s the good stuff, so clean, so pure….

 

but….

Yes, to live a respectable life you’re going to have to give some things up. BUMMER!

Putanjali never had sex. He was voluntarily celibate. This is the story passed down since the dawn of the sutras. It is suggested he chose to do this because he had this feeling deep in him, that if he engaged in carnal pleasures, he would lose his connection to the yoke which is yoga.

Definitely not an easy undertaking for a hot yoga guy from the 6000sBC if ya know what I mean.

A good modern example would be someone who decides never to drink because they saw their alcoholic parent passed out pathetic too many times. For everyone there is something deeply which tugs them and takes them away from inner peace.

For some people its work, for some people its sex, there are ons and ons of different things different people individually take on as their vice. Some more common than others.

How can I prevent abortion
Some people, even patanjali!!, prefer to abstain from sex. this graphic shows how the pro life boys in my life can keep themselves chaste ^_^

How are you Chaste, you slimy heathen, Royo?

My chastity is I will never carry a child in my womb. I’d never subject a child to my parenthood, since my childhood was sort of messed up. It is not my dharma, and so I give it up. Sad some days, but I never regret it. Just like Patanjali and his chaste body

For you it might be something really simple good luck figuring it out! A good example from our good friends at Royo, the Catholics, giving up a vice for lent. ( and for my friends in the hamtramck: FAT TUESDAY BABAY)

  • Some questions to reflect

    • What is something important to you which you can keep to yourself?
    • Have you ever given up a habit? How did it feel?
    • /what is one thing which, if you lost, you’d absolutely lose it? Consider why this may be
    • How does fear play into holding onto your vices?
    • When do you feel the most vulnerable to your vices? being aware can help ease things

Aparigraha non possessiveness

All the stuff you have. all the files you have. all the records and collections and things you have. everything could go away in an instant. To any of us.  At any time.

Luckily as I write this, everything is ok. take a moment for yourself, look around, notice you are safe.

ahhh you just experienced mindfulness ^_^

It doesn’t always feel so easy though. Right now there is a virus going around causing suffering to almost everyone whether they have gotten it or not. It is times like these where you realize how fragile everything is, and we go into survival mode

things which were easy to share before (uhhh toilet paper?) are closely hoarded.

families are being torn apart from ideology differences

No one will say hi on the sidewalk anymore

Ugh its such a lonely time! And I see the lonelier we get, the closer we hold our posessions closely

 

Examples of every day possessiveness I am guilty of

  1. Wanting to be right instead of happy
  2. Holding a grudge
  3. Withholding emotionally in fear of rejection
  4. Quitting when things get hard
aparigraha means non posessive, like this gift giving dragon
This dragon has been hoarding wealth for quite some time. yoga brought them to a point where they don’t need to sleep on gold, they can share their gifts without fear of losing!

Huh, I bet you thought I was going to talk about hoarding items like a dragon.

Well that’s also possessive, but as social creatures we like to play games with each other. Look at how many of those examples were games. Right or happy, keeping anger close, keeping distance, keeping myself from moving forward. A bunch of mind games.

When you have a strong emotional reaction next time, think about the game, or the dance you could even say, with your partner. What are we both hiding, what are we both holding at the cost of intimacy?

Oh boy I said the intimacy word better jump to some internet quote blocks:

“Seek out people, books or ideas that contradict your current beliefs and one of two things will happen

A) you will discover you are wrong

B) or you will imporve the arguments for your own ideas

Mark  Manson www.markmanson.net

 

seek out contridictions
Mark Manson is one of my MVP western self help book writers. he encompasses a lot of stoicism and open mindedness to end the suffering in our lives

If you are a giver, remember to learn your limits

because the takers don’t have any

-secondsapart

know your limits

Here are some questions to leave you with:

    • What do you have to offer others?
    • Who is someone or what is something of which you feel you could never let go?

Yama conclusion

So now you know what the structural framework for living as a respectable person in your community, what next?

we need to put these concepts into practice
to review, we have
  1. Ahimsa – non violence

  2. Satya – honesty

  3. Asteya non stealing

  4. Brahmacharya – chastity

  5. Aparigraha – non possessiveness

how can you show up? How can you put these concepts into your daily life?

Have you tried living by the ideas of the yamas? let me know in the comments

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