For those of you who wonder how to be a better person, here is something to consider. The Yamas (or rules of social behavior) are the the first step of the ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga‘ which comes from the ancient Indian philosophical text, ‘The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’. When I first heard about the Yamas, I couldn’t stop thinking about how relevant they are to everyday life and how if all of us thought about them from time to time – we would all be happier and better towards one another.
1. Practicing nonviolence
The first Yama is that of practicing nonviolence. It’s pretty obvious at first glance – ever since we were kids we have been all taught not to fight others. However, here it gets a bit different – the idea is to approach yourself with nonviolence as well – replacing it with kindness and love. As people we love to punish and push ourselves – to work harder, be stronger, better – all the time! We often go so far that we end up being bad towards ourselves. The first Yama aims to address exactly that – practicing nonviolence not only towards others – but also ourselves. Next time you are trying to rest and start feeling guilty remember – take a break, you deserve it, be kind to yourself and you will find it easier to be kind to others.
2. Speak truthfully
Also known as Satya, the second Yama is about speaking truthfully. Truthfulness is described as a state of being in which one is able to separate your observations from your interpretations. One that means is that one is able to accept that people have different realities, that reality is a selective act of attention and interpretation. By accepting truth and the world as it is you will find the comfort that arises from truthfulness when it replaces the negativity that arises from lies and a distorted perception of reality.
3. Appropriate sexual control (Brahmacharya)
What that means is keeping always in mind that the only way to express love is not through sexual actions. Love can be expressed in millions of ways and you need to be open to exploring them. Brahmacharya means aligning with the creative energy of the cosmos, as your soul is making love with the cosmos. It means expanding your definition of love and being in control of your sexual energy and directing it in the right directions.
4. Asteya – Honesty
Being honest with not only others – but also yourself. Realizing that you are in charge of your happiness – and not outside factors. In Yoga, it is believed that an honest life is based upon a deep connection to spirit. Asteya is about reminding ourselves to have faith in our choices and our decisions and to remember that we are the ones who decide what to do and how to feel and outside factors should not play too big of a role.
5. Aparigraha – Generosity
Lastly, we have generosity. Aparigraha is described very beautifully in The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga: It is “The shift in internal reference from predominantly ego-based to predominantly spirit-based“.
Take only what you need, use only what you need to use, let go of things when the time is right and remember to be generous to those who need it.
I hope the five spiritual laws are able to inspire someone to be a better person as they inspire me. At the least, I believe that considering them from time to time in our daily lives can make all of us better people.