I love the name 8 Limbs Yoga Centers, because it reminds me that the path of yoga offers a wealth of direction for spiritual fulfillment on and off the yoga mat. 8 Limbs refers to ashtanga yoga’s eight-fold path, each limb equal and necessary. The first limb offered on that path is yama, a set of five moral restraints. Without this limb, our practice would feel empty. Yama can be translated to abstinence, or affectionately as love in action. This spirituality in action promises to bring us into right relationship with ourselves, the people around us, and the world. The five yamas are Ahimsa – non-violence, Satya – truthfulness, Asteya – non-stealing, Brahmacharya – continence or moderation, and Aparigraha – non-greed.

Practicing ahimsa or non-violence may seem logical and natural from the onset to many of us. However to truly cause no pain we are called to practice ahimsa not only with our actions, but also our words, and deeper yet with our thoughts. How often do we criticize our selves and others in our mind? Just becoming aware of the tone we take inside our mental conversations can be extremely awakening. The energy we create with our words, thoughts and actions emanates from us attracting the same vibrations, situations and thoughts back to us. When you hear harmful words or thoughts emanating from you, activate positive thoughts or affirmations, or change your environment until you feel better. Act out of love, and share it with yourself and others.

Satya or truthfulness guides us to be humble. In an asana practice the need for satya comes when we push for greatness and go beyond our limits, or when we stay safe and don’t explore our potential at all. Developing an intimacy with our truth comes from being quiet and listening to our inner voice. I find journaling immensely valuable for this reason, it gives me permission to hear all of what I have to say, no editing. Depending on how your truth was valued by your family that voice may be easy to hear, or almost silent. The great news is that by standing in your truth that voice becomes clear, and acting from it allows you to become your own best friend.

Trust in the natural abundance of the universe is how we live in asteya or non-stealing. Think about how many little ways we steal. We might steal time at work to be on the computer or phone; we may steal a pen from the waitress, or groceries from our parent’s house. What underlies this habit is the fear that we won’t get what we need. The sutras reassure us that when we are established in asteya the abundance of the universe flows to us effortlessly.

Living in moderation or brahmacharya is to live with simplicity, to conserve, to recycle and to reuse. Here in the Northwest there is a lot of brahmacharya going on, but our culture keeps insisting that we indulge in more. All around us are messages saying we should eat more, or starve our selves more, spend more, drink more, or medicate ourselves more. When we do we become bogged down by waste, guilt, and worry. Brahmacharya is calling us to examine every aspect or your life for balance and promises that when practicing moderation we will be energized.

The last yama but not least is aparigraha or non-greed. This yama encourages us to clear out space and make way for grace. Letting go of hording stuff from shoes and worn out cloths, to old ideas, old habits, and out dated beliefs gives us the freedom to change and become more of who we really are. We can let go of the fear of loosing part of ourselves by seeing that we are already are perfect inside. Aparigraha’s message is that nothing outside of ourselves can make us more whole.

The insight gleamed from the yamas is a gift, open up to them and you will see your practice deepen and become more fulfilling and supportive of who you truly are.

Posted by: Cookie Tamcsin

Neighborhood Studios