The Yamas: Relating to Ourselves, Others, and the Earth – Exploring the 8 Limbs of Yoga


The first limb of yoga, the Yamas, speak to the difficulty of relationship and social dynamics.

Hoping to guide us into a more authentic relationship to ourselves and the world we live in, they are a way to navigate our ecosystem with integrity. Also known as the “restraints,” the Yamas are not about sacrifice, plight, or suffering. Instead, they are about pulling yourself inward and recognizing the role you play in your relationship to the earth and to others.  On a lot of levels, they remind me of the ten commandments, but without the dogmatic shadow.  

Each of the 5 Yamas really hit on the soft spots of our relationship dodginess…  

Ahimsa in its most direct interpretation means non-violence of any kind. The initial thoughts of not hitting, fighting, or screaming at someone may come to mind however, Ahimsa also speaks more specifically to the underhanded ways we may create violence in relationships… The thoughts we hold towards ourselves and others that come from a place of anger or harm.  Considering recent changes to environment protection, there is definitely a strong “caring for our Mother Earth” component as well.

“In what ways do you express violence physically?”

“In what other ways do I express violence?”

Satya pairs with Ahimsa to form strong boundaries around how we work with ourselves and others. Meaning “Truthfulness,” Satya asks for honesty and truthfulness in how we communicate thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. It guides us to be honest and authentic, without damaging ourselves or others…. explaining that our truth and authenticity come from a place of clear seeing rather than violence, projections, or attachments. Focusing on Satya means being real, rather than being nice, with the challenge of doing it from a place of non-violence.

“Am I honest with myself?”

“Am I honest in my relationship with others?”

Asteya, non-stealing, examines the parts of ourselves that don’t respect our own or other’s boundaries. It looks at our attempts to take what we believe we need from others, or allow others to take from us, and how this causes violence or inauthenticity.

It says that when one steals from another, both are kept from getting what is needed.  

“Am I able to identify boundaries?”

“How has not noticing or disrespecting boundaries hurt me or my relationships?”

Brahmacharya can be translated as “Walking with God,” and explains that by seeing the divine or sacred in each moment and being, we are able to live in moderation rather than excess. It can be translated to apply specifically to our sexual actions as well as all aspects of life that can easily become consumed with cravings or desires. Brahmacharya encourages us to see the world with awe, curiosity, and an attention for the divine, rather than attainment and self-satisfaction.

“In what ways do I use others or allow myself to be used?”

“Am I driven by authenticity or desire?”   

“Am I able to recognize the divine in my surroundings?”

Aparigraha, similar to Brahmacharya, deals with perspectives and practices towards possessiveness. It encourages us to let go of people, objects, and expectations, allowing us to move towards simply enjoying life as is. Rather than attaching to desires with greed, we are invited to release attachment that may be incongruent with our true selves and the rest of the Yamas.

“Where do I find myself clinging?”

“ How is my possessiveness impacting my relationships?”

Take some time and really consider these. It may be pretty mind blowing, bring up a lot, or just assure you that you are keeping a mindful course.


This article is part of a developing series for Be Here Now Network, exploring the 8 Limbs of Yoga, and the ways in which we can deepen our yoga practice by taking its teachings off the mat, and into our daily grind.
Amanda Hart is currently studying art therapy and clinical mental health counseling in the Graduate School of Transpersonal Psychology at Naropa University. She is a 250-hour RYT. Born in the Blue Ridge, and currently transplanting in the Rockies.
This article was written for Be Here Now Network and is not to be replicated without consent. Photo via Google+.