Yamas – codes to live by

In Patanjjali’s (the father of yoga) yoga sutra there are eight limbs which comprise the eight yamas adelaidefolded pathway to enlightenment. These limbs are seen as steps or guides on the yogic pathway.

The first limb is Yamas, which are deemed the restraints or codes to live by in society. The yamas are complemented by the niyamas which are our personal codes of practise.

‘The Yamas comprise the “shall not” in our dealings with the external world and the niyamas comprise the “shall do” in our dealings with the inner world,’  Wikipedia.

The purpose of both the yamas and the niyamas is a redirecting of energies, helping us to reduce karma and always move towards clarity. They can all be practised at a psychological level as well as physical. They also provide a solid foundation to move through the rest of the yogic limbs.

The yamas are:

Ahimsa (non harming)

This can translate as harmlessness, removal of harmful intention and absence of enmity. This manifests as the cultivation and practise of non violent thoughts, words, actions or intentions towards the external world, one another, animals (and all living things) and especially towards the self.

‘…may all beings look at me with a friendly eye, may I do likewise, and may we look at each other with the eyes of a friend,’ Yajur Veda.

It is believed that practising ahimsa cultivates love, where the violence or harm is removed, it creates space for only love.

Ahimsa can take the form of practicing loving thoughts, not hurting animals, not judging others and even avoiding pushing yourself to the point of injury in your asana practise.

Satya (truthfulness)

Satya is the practise of incorporating the continuous truth and honesty at all levels of your life (even towards the self), which helps produce greater self reflection and develops integrity and overcome delusions. It translates as unchangeable or continuous truth.

It is the action of focussing on thoughts and speech that do good as opposed to do harm.

‘In most ways, the practice of satya is about restraint: about slowing down, filtering, carefully considering our words so that when we choose them, they are in harmony with the first yama, ahimsa. Patanjali and his major commentators state that no words can reflect truth unless they flow from the spirit of nonviolence,’ Yoga Journal.

The most wonderful gift you can give yourself is the truth.

Asteya (non stealing/non coveting)

Asteya focusses on taking something without permission, which isn’t just limited to physical goods. This can also extend into taking someone’s time, ideas or space and even hoarding unnecessary possessions.

Here are some great practical ways of practising asteya.

‘Asteya also includes the concept that you should try to be content with what comes to you by honest means,’ Yoga 108.

Bramacharya (chastity)

This is the practise of managing sexual energy and whilst it may not manifest in the form of abstinence, it can be the practise of mindful relations and adhering to ahimsa towards the self and others. Some yogis choose to embrace this yama as self imposed celibacy.

The belief around this is that celibacy is beneficial in reserving prana, which encourages or is required for enlightenment. Yogis also believe that bramacharya can lead to physical and mental wellness and clarity, good health and inner peace and clarity.

It can also be considered the control of the senses.

‘According to the Yoga Sutras, the end-result or fruit of Brahmacharya practised to perfection is unbounded energy and vitality.’ Wikipedia

 Aparigraha (non possessiveness)

This is the practise of greedlesness, non attachment to material and impermanent things which is said to create a pathway for a mindset of flowing abundance by letting go of the desire of things. With the removal of neediness and desire, comes contentment and peace.

Anything that can be lost, we shouldn’t be attached to but rather we should act from and value those things that can never truly be lost, such as love, ‘…the work you put into improving yourself, quieting your mind, learning how to behave in a moral and ethical manner, and learning how to act in accordance with your true inner self is something that can never be lost,’ Instant Good Karma.

‘The yogi feels that the collection or hoarding of things implies a lack of faith in God or himself to provide for his future,’ Light on Yoga, BKS Iyengar, page 35.

Addtionally, there are other yamas which are not as well known or as common. They are Daya (compassion), Arjava (rectitude), Kshama (forebearance/patience), Dhriti (steadiness), Mita-Ahara (moderate eating).

Stay tuned for our post about Niyamas.

Read our What Does Yoga Actually Mean? post.

Vishuddha chakra

Chakra may now be a common term to you and you may even have an understanding of its meaning.

The chakras (meaning wheel or cycle) are culmination points for nadis (channels) of prana sacral chakra(energy or lifeforce). A useful analogy when considering chakras is to envision nadis as highways, filled with cars (prana) and the chakras are the intersections and roundabouts where these highways meet.

The chakras reside on the sushumna nadi, which is the central channel of energy that is aligned with the spinal column.

Let’s look closely at the throat chakra:

Vishuddha Chakra

This is the centre of physical and spiritual purification and detoxification. Associated with chakra throatthe colour blue (more specifically a smoky purple or lavender grey), it’s where your words of clarity form and is also the space of purity and infinity.

The Vishuddha yantra is generally depicted by a sixteen petalled lotus as well as images of the moon, a circle and a white elephant. Unlike the base chakra’s elephant, this elephant represents a spiritual orientation in the physical life. The circle represents akasha (space or the place where nothing exists). The mantra or seed sound, ham (or hang) associated with this expressive area is said to elevate awareness beyond all physical manifestation.

It’s the seat of sound and is governed by the element of either, which Jung purports to be ‘more volatile than air’ and not too dissimilar to prana. It also looks after our creative expression, communication, dreams, memory, intuition, improvisation, knowledge and self expression. This is where that well know Hindu Goddess, Saraswati, is believed to live.

Physiologically it presides over the lungs, throat, thyroid, hearing/speech organs and cervical spine.

‘We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.’  Epictetus

Do you ever notice tightness or soreness in your throat or the frequent need to clear it? Do you have swallowing troubles or find yourself talking a lot or too little? This could represent an imbalance in your throat chakra. You may also notice the following if this chakra seems out of balance:

  • fearfulness
  • nervousness
  • inability to speak up
  • unable to speak your truth
  • jaw pain
  • laryngitis
  • sore neck

When in harmony this area brings balance, clarity and understanding to situations and perspectives. Having a deep awareness and understanding of this area helps us to really learn to listen to ourselves first and foremost and then you can really hear others.

Vishuddha dictates a sort of higher discrimination – that facility to choose between “right” and “wrong” or more directly interpreted, “nectar” and “poison”; “nectar” being what sweetens and helps you grow and “poison” analogous to something that hinders and stunts your health and growth. Yogis can look toward the yamas and niyamas for guidance on their personal code of right and wrongs.

‘The truth needs so little rehearsal.’ Barbara Kingsolver

What you can do to bring your throat chakra into harmony:

  • quiet speech/stop talking
  • undertake a complete day of silence
  • attend a vipassana retreat
  • stop the internal chatter
  • maintain and enjoy silence
  • speak your truth
  • sing
  • really listen to others
  • write a letter to someone or yourself

Asana that can help rebalance vishuddha:

  • Hasta utthanasana
  • Halasana
  • Salamba sarvangasana
  • Simhasana
  • Ustrasana
Did you know? this chakra is also linked to self expression for writers and often a blockage in this chakra can manifest as writer’s block.


Did you miss our posts on Anahata, Svadhisthana and Mooladahara chakras?

affirmations chakra