The ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga’
The Yamas

The Yamas

Yama(s) is the Sanskrit word meaning ‘restraint’, ‘reign’, ‘control’ particularly with regards to action, words or thought that may cause harm according to Stephen Sturgess. As such, the Yamas are the moral and ethical codes of self-control that are to be adhered to.
The Yamas are further broken down into five ‘characteristics’:


Ahimsa (Sanskrit from a – non, + himsa – violence) literally means non-violence. As described, the aim is to cause no harm by thought or action to any living creature. It also means, by association, kindness and thoughtful consideration to other living creatures.


Satya (Sanskrit for ‘truth’, ‘reality’, ‘virtue’) is the view that speaking the truth is always the correct path to take; but more importantly, how the truth is delivered, as the characteristic of Ahimsa must also be followed. Consideration must be taken into what is said and how it is said, so as not to cause undue harm to another.


Asteya (a – non + steya – steal) is the Sanskrit term for ‘non-stealing’. The basic thought is that one should not take anything that rightfully belongs to another. This is not only material objects, but mental property or emotions that are to be felt and expressed. Essentially, it is to not take something that was not freely given, or to not take something past the time allowed.


Brahmacharya (Brahma – universal self/absolute reality + charya – conduct/behaviour) is the characteristic of clean living, sense control, or generally a pure way of life. Although typically referred to as sexual abstinence, Brahmacharya consists of a great deal more than what is often seen as celibacy. In essence, Brahmacharya promotes a purer way of living life and a stronger connection to God. Sexual energy is not to be repressed or hidden, but has the potential to be utilised in a different form; to be reinvested to the inner self and spirit.


Aparigraha (a – non + parigrah – amass/to seize) is the Sanskrit term to avoid hoarding wealth or material possessions. This also means to take what is needed, and not be greedy or take advantage of the situation to gain more than is necessary.


  • Sturgess, Stephen, Yoga Meditation: Still Your Mind and Awaken Your Inner Spirit. Oxford, UK: Watkins Publishing Limited 2014
  • Online Etymology Dictionary,
  • Holistic Online,
  • The yoga system of Patanjali, James Wood (Translator), Harvard University Press 1914,
  • Alter, Joseph, Moral Materialism, Penguin 2012

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