Follow the Five Yamas of Yoga this New Year!

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One of the wonderful things about yoga is that it’s not just a series of exercises, breathing and relaxation techniques. It can be a way of life! We can practice yoga through the way we treat ourselves and others in everything we do. We can become happier and more fulfilled through practicing the yamas of yoga, which are ethical guidelines for our daily lives. Yoga is an ancient healing science from India and the very first part of the traditional journey of yoga starts with these five yamas:

1. Ahimsa (non-harming)
This instruction is to practice kindness, forgiveness and non-judgement to ourselves and other beings, both in our actions and most challengingly, in our thoughts. Putting this into action can be difficult but so internally transformative that students often put all of their focus into this yama before moving on to exploring the others. When we are free from negative thoughts towards ourselves and others, inner peace can be found.

2. Satya (honesty)
To practice Satya, we need to explore the reasons why we are being dishonest in the first place. Is it habit? Fear? Recklessness? If we are more honest with ourselves about the causes of our lies it may help us to be more honest with others. Through truthfulness we can live freer, more confident and authentic lives.

3. Asteya (non-stealing)
Of course, this yama means to refrain from stealing the obvious – physical objects but it also asks us to look at what else we are taking from others that we don’t own or need. Are we taking advantage of other people’s kindness, their time, credit for their work? Are we stealing from our own potential by spending time and energy on things that don’t lift ourselves or others? We all know how good it feels to give a present or help another being. This yama encourages us to consciously take less and give more.

4. Brahmacharya (unity)
This yama asks us to look at where we are getting our pleasure from? Are we using other people? Stimulants? Unhealthy habits? Can we assess and moderate these dependencies to balance our senses and free our minds? Can we strive for healthy, non-dependant relationships, and make better choices in what we are feeding our minds through social media, TV, magazines etc. Moderating our senses can help us to find inner peace and joy.

5. Aparigraha (non-possessiveness)
Do you envy others for what they have? Do you attach emotion to your possessions and to the acquisition of them? Do you own more than you need? Are your goals in life to acquire more stuff? It’s hard when we live in a society that encourages all of this. It takes wisdom to see that these things only lead to unhappiness, but it takes huge strength to stop. This yama asks us to put less importance on possessions, to use what we need in life without placing ownership on it, to value our relationships, our health, happiness and self-worth more than the things we own or could own.

By practicing the 5 Yamas of Yoga this New Year, you will lead a more honest and peaceful life.

Lisa Fahy
Senior Teacher
Himalaya Yoga Valley Centre Cork