I’ve mentioned the Eight-Limb Path before, but I wanted to go just a little deeper into these ethical and moral codes for yogis. Also, in case I haven’t mentioned it – YOU are a yogi! You are a practitioner of yoga, which makes you a yogi! It’s kind of like being a white belt in karate classes.
Unlike working toward earning a black belt in karate, there is no ‘final goal’ to the practice of yoga. Despite what many will demonstrate, there isn’t a final test on your ability to do a headstand or bind yourself into an ever-smaller ball of limbs and breathing. In fact, it’s completely okay to do Savasana (Corpse Pose) during an entire class if that’s what you need to feel healthy! The self-awareness to understand what your body needs is one of the main goals of developing a yoga practice.
The true ‘ultimate’ goal of yoga is to cultivate a steady mind that leads to a state of calm blissfulness.
With that in mind, you can view the Eight-Limb Path as simply a guidebook to happiness.
The first limb of yoga, the Yamas, is focused on the individual’s ethics and integrity. How do you, as a yogi, conduct yourself daily? What behaviors do you engage in?
The Yamas are explained best as the outline that enables us to relate to the Golden Rule: “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.” The five Yamas are: nonviolence, truthfulness, nonstealing, continence and noncovetousness.
I want to cover each of the Yamas individually, and demonstrate how you can apply them in your daily life without changing who you are. For now, explaining that there are five parts to the first limb of yoga is probably enough.
For more exploration on this topic, I highly recommend “The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice” by Deborah Adele.