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Yama (Limb 1)



 ahiṃsā-satyāsteya-brahmacaryāparigrahā yamāḥ


ahiṃsā= not harming

satya = truth, facts

asteya = not stealing

brahmacarya = respect of personal boundaries

aparigrahā = not being acquisitive

yamāḥ = loss of control to self, self-control 


To loose control to oneself is to disrupt systemic harm, to participate in facts of people not being deprived of what they need, personal boundaries respected and no appropriation. 

jāti-deśa-kāla-samayānavacchinnāḥ sārva-bhaumā mahāvratam

jāti = birth, social group that one is born into

deśa = country, location, region

kāla = time

samaya = customs, conventions

anavacchinnāḥ = not constrained by, irrespective of

sārva = all

bhaumā = relating to the world

mahā = great

vratam = command, law, ordinance, rule, vow

This Great Duty (adherence to the yama rule) is to be followed throughout the world, irrespective of station at birth, country or place, time or custom.

(YS II.30=31)

The limbs of yoga are all of the implementations of the practice. And they are also described by Patañjali  as  upāya or remedy for flagging practice (YS II.26). Contrary to popular belief the Eight Limbs of Yoga are not the basic ethical teachings of Yoga. They are what we need to put into place to support our practice in imperfect times. 

This first limb is something of an exception to the seemingly optional nature of the limbs as Patañjali describes it as a universal obligation. Why? The first limb, Yama, is concerned with the creation of a safe space for people.  A failure to create such a safe space would render the practice of Yoga impossible.  

To learn more about the Limbs of Yoga directly concerned with the practice of Yoga, join Yoga Philosophy's entry level course designed for students of Yoga: Five Limbs: Yoga Sūtra  Essentials for Practice.

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