Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Yamas

It So I mentioned in my 2016 Intentions post, my main goal for 2016 is to graduate from Yoga Teacher training with Marni Task. Stemming from that are more specific goals, one of which was to apply more yoga principles to my life. I listed them out in that post and here they are again.

  1. Yamas
  2. Niyamas
  3. Asana
  4. Pranayama
  5. Pratyhahara
  6. Dharana
  7. Dyhana

Of course the last is Samadhi or bliss, the final stage which I am fairly confident I won't get to by May or even this year. These are actually from the The Yoga Sutras Patanjali and are described in the 3rd Book.

I did not get into these specifically. Also one of my goals was to blog more frequently and consistently than I have been. So I will use the fact that I haven't talked about these things in detail nor how I will apply them, I'll write up blog posts about that - two birds with one stone 一石二鳥ですな

The first post will be about the Yamas

यम Yamas

The yamas are one of two sets of guidelines for living a good life. The Yamas focus on how you treat people. There are 5 practices:

  1. Ahimsa
  2. Satya
  3. Asteya
  4. Brahmacharya
  5. Aparigraha

Let's take a brief look at each of these.

अहिंसा Ahimsa

Ahimsa is non-violence. According to Wikipedia, the etymology is:

The word Ahimsa - sometimes spelled as Ahinsa - is derived from the Sanskrit root hiṃs – to strike; hiṃsā is injury or harm, a-hiṃsā is the opposite of this, i.e. non harming or nonviolence.
Yoga Sutra 2.35: अहिंसाप्रतिष्ठायां तत्सन्निधौ वैरत्यागः॥३५॥

ahimsa pratishthayam tat samnidhau vaira tyagah : In the presence of one firmly established in non-violence, all hostilities cease".

In the commentary by Swami Satchidananda of the The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali on page 118 says:

Ahimsa is not causing pain. Some authors translate it as non-killing but it is not that. Himsa means to cause pain; ahimsa, not to cause pain. Killing is different from causing pain. Causing pain can be even more harmful that killing. Even by your words, even by your thoughts, you can cause pain

In his commentary to Yoga Sutra 2.35 he writes:

That is the benefit of ahimsa. When it is practiced continously in thought, word, and deed for some time, the entire personality brings out those vibrations...Even wild alnimals forget their nature of causing pain in the presence of on established in ahimsa.

David Life and Sharon Gannon in their Jivamukti Yoga book take ahimsa to be nonviolence and so promote ethical vegetarianism (vegan really), animal rights, environmental and social activism.

Taken together is be kind to people in thought and deed.

Simple enough. Except when that idiot doing 65 in the passing lane won't get out of the way, damn it. Oh, yeah, that was himsa in thought. And that is where the hard part of this tenet is. When you are like me at 5'5", not hitting people is pretty easy since a majority of them are probably bigger and stronger than I am. So I'm pretty good at this part. It's the unleashing of f-bombs while I'm driving part that will be the big challenge. Which points to the fact that one practices ahmisa, it is on ongoing effort.

सत्या Satya

Yoga Sutra 2.36: सत्यप्रतिष्ठायां क्रियाफलाश्रयत्वम्॥३६॥

Satya pratisthayam kriyaphalasraya tvam : To one established in truthfulnes, actions and their results become subservient

Satya is truthfulness. Much like the though shall not bear false witness from the Christian bible. This shouldn't be new to anyone as I think it is probably in most ethical treatises. I find Swami Satchidananda's commentary interesting in that while this is definitely an ethical guideline by being part of the Yamas, he points that it can lead to what could be said to be psychological, emotional benefit for those practicing it:

With the establishment of honesty, the state of fearlessness comes. One need not be afraid of anybody and can always lead an open life. When there are no lies, the entire life becomes an open book.

I take this to mean that one whom is honest to others and themselves have a serenity and aren't anxious about what others think or consequences. At least to a degree anyway.

He also points out that this practice means no white lies. He suggests that keeping silent is being better that causing "trouble, difficulty or harm to anyone". At the same time it also means that we should not cause others to lie either and if we consciously do so we are part of the lie.

The white lie stipulation is a tough one.

अस्तेय Asteya

Yoga Sutra 2.37: अस्तेयप्रतिष्ठायां सर्वरत्नोपस्थानम्॥३७॥

Asteya pratisthayam sarvaranopasthanam To one established in non-stealing, all wealth comes

Again another ethical guideline much like the Thou Shall Not Steal of the 10 Commandments. What I like about Swami Satchiananda's commentary is that he ties in some complex concepts. The first is stealing ideas. This concept ties into intellectual property on a very complex level, or is really related to to the sutra before it about being honest about where you got an idea. This topic could be a whole post in itself but I probably won't go there.

The other thought he suggests is that by not allowing someone to use something you are not using, this is also stealing. This suggestion is very subtle and interesting. I think I will come back with a separate post just on this topic.

ब्रह्मचर्य Brahmacharya

Yoga Sutra 2.38: ब्रह्मचर्यप्रतिष्ठायां वीर्यलाभः॥३८॥

brahmacharya pratisthayam virya labha - By on established in continence, vigor is gained

So this one is basically celibacy. I was thinking before I implemented this one I'd probably have to have a conversation with Arisa. Ah wait, I'm in luck. Swami Satchidananda writes:

That doesn't mean you much completely stay away from sex. Instead, be moderate. Preserve as much energy as possible. Have sex only in the proper way, in a marital relationship.


The idea is that you can save up that energy and use it for other purposes. And it is not just the physical energy you are saving but mental , moral, intellectual, and spiritual energy. This energy gets transformed in ojas which is transformed in to tejas or aura. It is similar to a personal magnetism.

अपरिग्रहा Aparigraha

Yoga Sutra 2.39 अपरिग्रहस्थैर्ये जन्मकथंतासंबोधः॥३९॥

Aparigraha shtairye janmakathamta sambodhah - When non-greed is confirmed, a thorough illumination of the how and why of one's birth comes

This is the standard don't be greedy admonition. It even extends to accepting gifts that create an obligation to return the favor in the future which is really a bribe. It's unfortunate that it seems the opposite of this quality is the basis for U.S. politics.

And so

That's the Yamas. So in some ways these are not anything new and are similar to how I was raised as a Christian with the 10 commandments. That is not to say these are easy and I want to figure out what it means when actually defining specific and measurable goals. I'm not sure I can, but we'll see.

Before that though I'll need to a post on the rest of the 8 limbs. The next one will be the Niyamas

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