Incorporating the Five Moral Restraints Into Your Yoga Practice


If you’ve begun a serious yoga practice, you’ll want to incorporate the yamas—the five moral restraints—into your daily practice. Personalize each of the five restraints such that it applies to you and your particular situations. Think about the yamas as you move through the many poses in your yoga routine, and then look for ways to put these thoughts into action in real life.

The first of the five restraints is called ahimsa, which is the embracing of non-violence. This may mean practicing kindness towards a neighbor, a coworker, or a partner. Perhaps you will live this by practicing patience with a trying coworker or gentleness with a child, or maybe you will project global kindness towards all of mankind, recognizing our unifying humanity.

Yama number two is the decision to honor truthfulness, called satya. How you use this principle is up to you; you may wish to guard your tongue against anything but telling the truth, or perhaps you will internalize this to seek only truth and goodness inside yourself. You may need to learn how to be kind as you speak truthfully, or to hold to your integrity as you face pressure to compromise.

The third yama is asteya, or refusal to steal. You may decide you need to return those office supplies, or perhaps give back to your parents who so generously supported you all those years. Another way to use this yama is to decide that you will not take more than you need from others, meaning the world at large and people with whom you interact.

The fourth yama is brahmacarya, or practice of moderation. This is the practice of avoiding extremes, finding the gentle middle ground of taking just what you need, but not depriving yourself so much that you are consumed with self-absorption. By living moderately and avoiding extremes, you will have the energy and resources to give to others.

The last yama is aparigrapha, or refusal to hoard for oneself. This principle leads us to never hoard our possessions, but to give freely, sharing with others in need.

The five moral restraints, or yamas, will lead you to enlightenment, especially if practiced in conjunction with the niyamas.

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