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The Yamas (“restraints”) form the first limb of Patanjali’s ashtanga (“eight-limbed”) Yoga. They are related to the Niyamas.

Ten Yamas in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Five Yamas in the Yoga Sutras


Ahimsa (“non-violence”) is the practice of doing no harm to others (in throught, word or deed). The practice of Ahimsa uncovers benevolence as a quality of the heart.


Satyam (“truthfulness”) is a practice of speaking truthfully and kindly. It is said by Patanjali that the perfection of Satya means that one’s word becomes binding to events. Satyam is an extension of Ahimsa: “Therefore let one take care that his speech is for the welfare of all.” (Shankara)


Asteya is sometimes translated as “non-avarice”. Vyasa writes of it as: “the improper appropriation to oneself of others’ things: refusal to do it, in freedom from desire, is non-stealing.” Asteya need not however, be concerned with stealing material goods, but in being mindful of other ways in which we take things from other people dishonestly.


Aparigraha is usually rendered as “non-acceptance” – non-attachment to that which we do not posesses. Of this Yama, Vyasa says:
“Seeing the defects in objects involved in acquiring them, and defending them, and losing them, and being attached to them, and depriving others of them, one does not take them to himself, and that is aparigraha.”


Brahmacharya is usually translated as “self-control” and is often understood as specifically relating to sexual self-control and abstinence. In a wider sense, Brahmacharya relates to relating skilfully to our human appetites, so that rather than being bound by them, they become offerings to our own progress.