Yoga for Midwives Blog - The Yamas: the Yogis’ Code of Ethics – Part I

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Hello dear ACM-members!

Welcome to the first yoga blog of 2019. I hope that the year has started well for you, with either a well-deserved break over the holidays or a bunch of healthy babies and happy parents. Or both. 

In this blog, you can read about how you can practice yoga without even stepping onto the mat.

As I was looking for inspiration to write this first blog of the new year, I browsed through previously published ones. It was in the very first blog I wrote for ACM that I found what I was looking for.

In that blog, an introduction about yoga and how yoga can help you and your clients, I mentioned that the yoga path that most of us practice nowadays, Raja Yoga, actually consists of Eight Limbs. Eight Limbs sounds vague and possibly a bit scary, but it essentially means that there are eight parts to the practice. 

1.    Yama: five guidelines on how to interact with others
2.    Niyama: five observances to keep the body and mind clean
3.    Asana: postural yoga practice
4.    Pranayama: breath control, extension of life-force
5.    Pratyahara: withdrawal from the senses, mastery over external influences
6.    Dharana: concentration on a single point of focus
7.    Dhyana: meditation, continuous concentration
8.    Samadhi: direct perception of the true Self

Very often, we use the term yoga when we mean asana, the Third Limb. I talk about asana practice in the Yoga Styles Unpacked and the 5 Poses for Healing Lower Back Ache blogs among others. Pranayama, the Fourth Limb, was the topic in the blog about Breathing.

Today, I would like to go a little deeper into the Yamas, the First Limb of Yoga.

Though the Eight Limbs can be practiced simultaneously, it is often said that the practice truly begins with one’s attitude and behaviour. The Yamas are five concepts that yogis aim to live by in order to have a harmonious, peaceful and mindful interaction with the rest of the world. Together with the Niyamas, they form the yogic code of ethics.

Truth be told, I believe we should all practice these values, whether we consider ourselves yoga practitioners or not.

Let me give you a very short interpretation of the five Yamas.

Ahimsa ~ non-violence: Ahimsa reflects the intention to do no harm. Not to oneself, not to other people, not to animals nor to any other presence on this earth. While it is quite obvious we should not physically hurt anybody, it is also important not to direct negative thoughts to anybody, especially oneself.

Satya ~ truthfulness: Often interpreted as speaking the truth, it is more than not lying to others. Satya also means to live in our own truth and not letting our ego or emotions lead us astray from who we really are. It is also worth noting that since Ahimsa comes before Satya, it is sometimes wiser to not speak rather than to speak a truth that may unnecessarily hurt someone.

Asteya ~ non-stealing: Although it may seem fairly straightforward that we should not steal from others, Asteya goes deeper than that. Arising from a lack of faith in oneself, stealing also occurs when we try to fill a gap or cravings in our life with things we don’t need, such as excessive possessions or by demanding attention or time from others.

Brahmacharya ~ moderation of the senses: Often translated as celibacy or total abstention, I prefer to interpret it as putting one’s energy to proper use. Brahmacharya is about cultivating energy instead of wasting it. Whether it is in the context of sexual connections, our relationship to food or any activity we could indulge in, it is always wise to assess whether it contributes to our health and happiness and all the other Yamas before we engage in them.

Aparigraha ~ non-possessiveness: Not only is Aparigraha about practicing gratitude, moderation and a sustainable life-style as opposed to jealousy, materialism and greed, it is also about not being attached to the result of your actions. While the intention may be to reach point A, the journey and doing the right things along the way is what it is truly all about. 

How can we apply the Yamas in daily life? 

Let me take a popular new year’s resolution as an example: “This year, I am going to ramp up my physical exercise regime and lose weight”. Great intention, but how can you apply the Yamas to make it work for you? 

First comes Ahimsa. To start with, don’t think less of yourself because you gained a few kilos over Christmas. There is no good reason for beating yourself up with negative thoughts. Also, don’t harm yourself physically. If you haven’t done a workout in weeks or months, avoid injuries by going easy on yourself.

Next, is Satya. Be truthful, mainly to yourself. Are you really going to run three times a week? Or is it more likely that you will stick to an exercise routing by signing up for a paid gym membership? And are you really aiming at getting back to the weight you had when you were 18?  Or do you simply want to look like the healthy 35 year-old you are?

Then comes Asteya. When you make promises to yourself and to others, don’t break them. If you sign up for a yoga course and don’t show up, you steal time and energy from the yoga teacher who counts on your participation. If you have the opportunity to go for a beach walk but instead stay on the couch with some excuse, you rob yourself of the chance to realise the intention that you set for nobody else but you… 

Brahmacharya is, in this example, easy to explain but probably harder to execute: avoid foods or drinks that don’t agree with you or do not contribute to your vision of becoming healthy. Abstain from the things that drain your energy and steer you away from your goal; get enough sleep, stay away from toxic people in your life, get rid of unhealthy addictions. And remember, everything in moderation, also the determination with which you throw things out of your life. It has to remain sustainable and fun.

Last but not least, Aparigraha. If after weeks of regular work-outs and nourishing foods, it turns out you have lost only 500 grams, don’t despair. You may not have gotten much closer to your ideal weight yet. But physical exercise will have made you feel happier and more energised. The healthy foods will have boosted your immune system, brain functions and nervous system. You might have made new friends at the gym or found out that you actually really like spinach smoothies.

It’s not about the result, it’s about the beautiful things you discover and do along the way.

In the spirit of yoga, I wish you many interesting self-discoveries as you set to achieve your resolutions. Living by the Yamas is a great way to a sustainable and abundant life. I hope you have a year full of health, happiness, laughter and love.

Tip of the day

Looking for a way to formulate a sustainable and achievable goal for the new year? In yoga we call it a Sankalpa: a heart-felt desire or a resolution to which you direct all your energy.  I wrote a personal blog about Intention Setting that you may find interesting. In the little video in that blog I talk about that happened to me which I also wrote about in the September ACM blog about Breathing.

More about Yaisa

Yaisa is an ex-banker and ex-scuba diving instructor. She now spends her time between Bali, Europe and South Australia teaching yoga and working as a health coach and appropriately named her business Yoga Here & There. Since 2016 she is also a yoga teacher trainer and every day, she is amazed at how much more there is to learn about yoga. She is happy to (try and) answer any questions you may have.

Phone: +61 455107533 (only WhatsApp when overseas)



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  • Offer: 10% discount, for any yoga class, yoga teacher training or yoga retreat with Yoga Here & There
  • Eligibility: any midwife that reads the Yoga blog
  • Booking: Use the code "ACM" when you email or call Yaisa to find out more.  The booking process is online, so you don’t need to print any vouchers.