Part 1: Yamas

The first aspect of the 8-fold Ashtanga Yoga path is the social discipline, also known as Yamas. The Yamas are guidelines for our social interaction with the outside world and our relationship with others.

The Yamas determine that we cannot do damage to anybody in any form possible: not in our deeds, not in are words and not even with our thoughts. The Yamas are universal laws that have to be respected everywhere at any given time. They are universal laws of Nature that are easy to follow.

There are 5 Yamas:

1) Ahimsa: non-violence 

2) Satya: truthfulness

3) Asteya: non-stealing

4) Brahmacharya: sexual control

5) Aparigraha: non-possessevenis

The Yamas need to be respected completely with no exceptions at any given time, in any place at any level. If you want to bring the practice of Yoga to a high level you have to follow all the Yamas for 100%. As a beginner you try to stick to the Yamas as much as possible.

When you follow the Yamas and the Niyamas as much as possible you will notice that you will make progress practicing the Asanas and Pranayama. As you make progress with the Asanas and Pranayama you will notice that it automatically becomes easier to follow the Yamas an the Niyamas. Respecting the Yamas and the Niyamas will help you to reach the ultimate goal of the Yoga: the total control of your mental activities.

1. Ahimsa: non violence

Ahimsa is the attitude towards all living creatures, the awareness of the absence of harmful intentions whatsoever on all levels: in your thinking, your speaking and in your actions. You must control your actions - do not do any harm to any living creature of any kind. Do not speak bad about somebody or be harmful with your words. The same goes for your thoughts: do not have any negative thoughts or feelings about somebody. Instead you have to generate love and compassion towards all living creatures.

2. Satya: truthfulness

Patanjali describes truthfulness as follows: "Be in harmony with the mind, speech and action, speech and mind are to be used in the line of truth, by expressing the speech and intellectually maintain what it has seen, heard and understood. A perfectly truthful person is he who speaks exactly what his mind thinks and will eventually act upon it."

A fact is a fact, you cannot do anything else but accept it. Often we try to hide facts and ignore them. Do not forgot that often a lie needs extra lies to maintain it. Dishonesty in any possible form creates unnecessary complications in life, honesty is an absolute necessity to be able unfold the reality.

3. Asteya: non stealing

The non stealing had to be interpreted in the broadest possible way: letting go of non authorized earthly belongings, thoughts and actions. You are not supposed to get credit for things you did not accomplish. If you find something (e.g. money) you cannot take it as it does not belong to you, even if you do not know who it belongs to.

4. Brahmacharya: sexual continence

Celibacy is considered behavior that will bring us closer to the Devine. According to the yoga philosophy it is not possible to have both the blessing of the transcendent science of the higher yoga and enjoy sexual pleasure at the same time. Brahmacharya means to be liberated from any sexual pleasure in any form. Following the rules of continence does not necessarily mean that you have to give up family life to become a nun or a monk. This is not expected within the science of yoga.

As soon as a yogi makes progress on the path of yoga he needs to renounce all the secular activities in order to free the mind for the practice of Dhyana and Dharana. It is not necessary that each and every one of us goes to this point of continence to be able to follow the path of Yoga. Controlled perception of the longings can be interpreted as continence.

When we understand this correctly and act accordingly we will be able to make progress onto the path of Yoga. Uncontrolled behavior will hinder our progress. The longing and fulfilling them do have a place in the family life. We are the ones who should control our longings and not the other way around. If the longings take over we loose our freedom ├ánd our mental and physical wellbeing. 

5. Aparigraha: non-possessiveness

We have the tendency to collect worldly belongings, this is a natural human instinct. We have the longing to want to look superior towards our fellow humans with what we own. 

Some worldly possessions are a necessity, but we should not collect luxury things just for the pleasure of collecting them. We spend time and energy in collecting things we do not really need and at the same time we spend time and energy in maintaining them, which creates a (constant) fear of loosing them. 

We spend time and energy - both limited sources - to create a constant state of unrest in our mind. We should limit our possessions to what we really need.

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