The 8 Limbs of Yoga – Part 1 Yama

Hello there, my dear friends! For the next 8 Sundays, I will be sharing an 8-part series on the 8 Limbs of Yoga and how they apply to our daily mental, physical and spiritual lives. When one has an open mind, one is able to see the similarities and not the differences in religious and philosophical beliefs, bringing us closer to that Poetic Crossing and the Elysian Life.

8 limbs


Yama, being the first limb, is all about our ethical standards and sense of integrity, keeping focus on our behavior and how we conduct ourselves in life. Yamas are considered universal practices that relate to what is best known as the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”.

There are Five yamas to consider and they are:

Ahimsa: Nonviolence

And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will

– 2 Timothy 2:24-26

One of the biggest sources of violence toward others has to do with our differences in beliefs. Over the span of history, people have felt the need to assault those which whom they have disagreements. Religious wars continue to ensue to this very day. One would wonder how weary God is upon hearing another request for victory.

This is not just between countries. In our very own communities and even within each church. A classic example is this clip from Saved. Though many would consider this extreme, I do not. This movie brought to light some of the reality of growing up as a teenager in the modern day church.

“This is not a weapon!”, exclaims the lead character and she holds up a bible that has just been thrown at her.  John 13:35 says “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” There is no disclaimer or loophole in this writing that says “unless you disagree with their form of worship or politics”.

When my dad was young, he went to live with his aunt in Los Angeles. This was when the Charismatic Movement had just come onto the scene. His aunt was involved in the movement. My father would experience kids throwing rocks at him, yelling “holy roller”! They would arrive home from church to find buckets of feces poured onto their porch. This was done to them, not by your average “non-believer”. These actions against my father and his family were carried out by other “Christians” who did not believe in “The Gifts of the Spirit”. My father refused to go to church ever again and began a  30+ year Heroin habit.

Ahimsa – nonviolence. Let’s try this. Let’s love one another regardless of our differences. Let us stop traumatizing young people who will feel said trauma for the rest of their lives.

Satya: Truthfulness

I am not sure there is any belief out there that doesn’t teach truthfulness. When we lie, we must continue to lie to cover the first lie. This is not sustainable. To live a simple, drama-free lifestyle, we cannot lie. Lying is just too complicated.

There are lies of commission and lies of omission. I  have done both in my life, especially during the years that I was drinking and drugging. I was an executive assistant to the president of an aerospace company, martial arts studio owner, church hospitality leader, and Sunday school teacher who drank and used cocaine regularly. Often, I would show up to church without having had any sleep. This was not sustainable.

Eventually, the truth would come out. Fortunately, this happened right as I was getting clean. After some time of being clean, I came clean to my church. I was embraced with love, understanding, and respect for being “real”. The other gift was watching as others began to open up about their addictions and shortcomings. Universal.

When you become truthful, it sets about a ripple effect of truthfulness in others. Of most importance, we must remain true to ourselves. The 12 Steps of Recovery, working with a sponsor and being part of a solid fellowship has been instrumental in helping me be true to myself and to others.

In Native American Culture, the owl represents wisdom, TRUTH, and patience.                       Photo by Cliff Johnson

Asteya: Nonstealing 

As with truthfulness, nonstealing is definitely taught across religions and philosophies. I am one who believes that any ill-gotten gain brings ill-gotten spirit into my household. I don’t want to be responsible for that.

Moreover, when I have worked for something, paid for it and brought it into my life, it has so much meaning to me. This might be due to the mindfulness spending I have been practicing lately. If I need it, if it is functional or brings beauty to my life, I will put it on a list. In a week, if I have the means, I will purchase it.

When I don’t have the means, I put it on a someday/maybe list.

Brahmacharya: Continence

Ah yes! Holding back. Self-control. I think as we age it gets easier to practice Continence. With experience and knowledge, we gain enough wisdom to know that whatever circumstance we are in, this too shall pass.

It is with that core understanding that we realize we don’t have to react immediately or emotionally. We don’t have to lash out, lie, steal, use drugs or drink over any situation. We can step back, breathe and turn it over to our higher power

One of my favorite moments in the book “Eat, Pray, Love”, is when Elizabeth Gilbert is praying in her closet. She is all emotional, wanting to get out of her marriage and unhappiness when she says she hears God speak to her for the very first time. God tells her “Go back to bed, Liz”.  Yes indeed, all was not going to be resolved at that moment, as a matter of fact, it would end up taking a lot longer than Elizabeth expected. But for Liz, this began a wonderous spiritual journey.

Aparigraha: Non-covetousness

Thou shalt not covet” – Exodus 20:17, King James Version

The act of coveting will most often bring on poor behavior. From sulking and being joyless, through attacking one’s character, all the way to violence.

In my first marriage, my husband and his ex-wife were constantly complaining each time one would obtain something the other did not have. I was a very young woman and did not totally understand what was going on with all this exclaiming of just how “unfair” it all was.

I actually started to act on this myself. Though I am a workaholic so I just set out to get raises and promotions to acquire what I wanted. But during this time in my life, I really didn’t like the person I  had become. Being comfortable in my own skin is the best feeling in the world to me and I know if I am to be covetous, that feeling would leave me immediately.

This covetous spirit was set free in me when my divorce took place. I didn’t have a lot of money but I felt I had everything I needed. Today, I could still fit all that I own in a very small truck.

Living these Yamas is another form of attaining bliss. Stay blissful my friends! – E