The Sanskrit word yama is often translated as “abstinence” or “regulation”. There are five yamas that outline the ethical path of a yogi (according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra), below we’ve highlighted each yama and offered suggestions on how to integrate them into your asana practice.
An effective way to incorporate ahimsa (nonviolence) into your asana practice is to become more aware of your true self and pay less attention to your inner critic or what other students are doing. Self-criticism and comparing yourself to or judging others are unhealthy behaviors both on and off the mat. Yoga studios are vulnerable places for many of us. Respect your fellow yogis and yourself, be kind.
Every body is unique – inside and out. While hanumanasana may be easy for some students, others will struggle. Our anatomy can also prevent us from accessing a pose, no matter how consistently we practice.
Approach your asana practice with kindness and curiosity. Notice when you begin to feel restriction/tension in a pose and listen to your body. Let your movements be guided by satya.
When practicing yoga in a studio setting, you likely have yogis to your left, right, front and back. We arrive on our mats to practice yoga together, but how often do we consider each other or the space we are in?
Asteya is translated as non-stealing. To translate that to the mat, we ask ourselves the question, “what am I taking?” Some scenarios to explore…
…Are you reluctant to move your mat to accommodate another student?
…Are you stealing time from the other yogis in the class by not showing up on time, or not showing up for your reservation at all?
…Are you taking away from someone else’s experience (or your own) by rushing out of class or carelessly returning props?
We unconsciously take from others and ourselves all the time. Mindfulness keeps us honest, non-stealing.
Take a moment to identify what your impulses are during yoga practice. Examples of impulses might include up-leveling everything or skipping every challenging pose. Once you’ve identified the impulses, practice brahmacharya to conserve and enhance your vital energy. Use brahmacharya to create balance in your asana practice.
Many times, we arrive to a yoga class expecting to receive something – a specific pose, words of encouragement, a feeling of community. During class, we may set high expectations for our bodies – flexibility, endurance, strength, balance. If our expectations are met, we are happy. If they aren’t, we are disappointed.
Next time you arrive to class, tap into aparigraha (non-greed/non-attachment). Release expectation and focus on the present moment. We do ourselves a disservice by linking expectation to happiness. By releasing our attachment to what we want or expect, we allow ourselves to receive what we need.