Rules! We are just getting this adventure up and running and you want to lay down the rules?!?
Yes. There are five yamas or rules for working in the external world. By putting these out there, I hope to let you know what you can expect when working with me. Furthermore, they also outline my expectations of you.
1. Ahimsa (a-him-za): non-violence, do no harm
Not only will I stress, but I will INSIST that yoga is not pain. In working together, we may find your edge, and it could be uncomfortable. However, you should never feel pain in yoga. Besides physical pain, this also covers emotional pain. Therefore COMPASSION is required in yoga. Even yogis who have practiced their whole lives are still practicing. There are no master’s in yoga…we are all still learning and challenging ourselves. This is why compassion and understanding for yourself is of upmost importance. Instead of the self-criticism we often heap upon our oopsies, a well-placed, “Hey! Good job showing up and doing your best” is more appropriate.
2. Satya (so-ti-ah): non-lying, be honest
At times, it may seem that truthfulness might fly in the face of Ahimsa. Don’t look for the “gotcha”; just be honest with yourself and others. If you must tell a hard truth, ask yourself if you can do it for the betterment of the other. Is the truth delivered with kindness? In yoga, this may mean that I need to say, “Hey, Friend, you may not be ready for the full expression of that pose. Let’s try it this way.” You may also have to say to me, “Hey, Jaimee, I am struggling with this. Can you give me a modification?” In all communications, honesty is important.
3. Asteya (ah-stay-ah): non-stealing
Besides the obvious, we don’t take what isn’t freely given, Asteya also applies to our yoga practice. If we push ourselves past our edge into pain, we are stealing our health from our bodies. If we are injured, then we have stolen time from another practice in order to heal.
4. Brahmacharya (bra-ma-char-i-ah): moderation
There are as many interpretations of Brahmacharya as there are opinions of people. However, for our practice together, moderation could be conserving our energy for a sustained practice. If we push ourselves too far too early in the practice, then we won’t have the wherewithal to finish strong. If we come to practice having eaten too much or too little, then this too takes away from our time. As a point of reference, you want to wait 30 minutes after a light snack or at least an hour or two after a heavy meal before practicing yoga.
5. Aparigraha (ah-par-i-gra-ha): give without expectation; non-greed
Also said to be “non-coveting”, Aparigraha could mean being content with your yoga practice as it is today, in this moment. I will share yoga with you and provide modifications so that you see how you can practice yoga regardless of physical condition, age, etc. In return, you will honor your body’s limitations and keep a growth mindset, telling yourself, “I may not be able to achieve the full expression YET, but it will come to me with time and practice.”
The five yamas work off the mat as well. If you only had five rules to live by and apply to your life, you couldn’t ask for five more simple yet fully encompassing rules than the yamas. There are five niyamas, or rules for your personal conduct (how you deal internally with yourself), as well. More on that next time.
Yoga International is one of the most trusted resources in the yoga world. Read their article on the yamas by clicking here.