The heart of a holistic yoga practice is intimacy: with ourselves, others and all living beings. The 1st limb of the 8 Limbs of Yoga (a roadmap to guide us on our journey) is known as the yamas, or ethical principles, that teach us to have a fulfilling life we need to cultivate meaningful relationships. To do this requires an emotional connection---intimacy. The yamas contain 5 ethical practices that we can incorporate into our daily lives to achieve intimacy:
1st Yama – Ahimsā
Starting with ahimsā, or non-harming, we learn the importance of compassion and kindness. Treating others with the intent to cause the least amount of harm is imperative in order to create conditions where connection and intimacy can occur. Alternatively, when we treat others with disrespect, anger or hate, we only keep us separated.
2nd Yama – Satya
Satya, or honesty, asks us to be mindful of and truthful with our words, but in a way that does the least amount of harm (incorporating the quality of ahimsā). Michael Stone, a highly respected teacher, writer and activist created a tool to help us navigate this delicate dance, called the Right Speech Matrix. It walks us through a series of questions we should ask ourselves before speaking: Is what I want to say true, is it beneficial to say, will the person be open to hearing what I have to say? If what we have to say is truthful, beneficial and the timing is right, then it we should say it. This is a tool that builds a level of honesty that also helps us cultivate intimacy.
Right Speech Matrix
3rd Yama – Asteya
Asteya is the principle of not stealing. Aside from the literal level of not stealing from others, this yama encourages us to consider how we might steal on more subtle levels. One common way this comes up is when we waste someone’s time by showing up late or not fully listening. We are stealing time from them. Stealing is based on a fear of scarcity versus abundance. When we see our lives as full rather than lacking we can give to others more freely. Furthermore, when we realize that we are all interconnected and our actions really do affect others, we don’t steal, because we would be stealing from ourselves.
4th Yama – Bramacharya
Bramacharya, or wise use of sexual energy, is a very intimate subject on its own! When two people who love each other have sex in a loving and respectful way it creates an intense feeling of intimacy and connection. On the contrary, if sex is done in a selfish manner it can create a profound sense of loneliness and grief. Unfortunately, there are a lot of negative views around sex in our country that can also cause extreme pain, anxiety and perversions which further alienate us. However, the recent public discussions on this subject serve as a great vehicle to help us shed light on these issues and hopefully lead us to positive change.
5th Yama – Aparigrahā
Aparigrahā, or non-greediness, is similar to asteya, as it is born from the feeling of scarcity versus abundance. However, this practice does not forbid us from owning things, after all this amazing life is meant to be enjoyed! But when our thoughts and actions are based on greed, it brings a negative cloud over our souls. Whether we are greedy in ways that are overt (addiction, material cravings) or subtle (the need to be center of attention), it can be destructive. Aparigrahā guides us to shift our greed to generosity: do something for someone else instead.
The yamas are beautiful insights on how we can live more mindfully and help us navigate through our journey with more confidence, peace and joy so we can experience true intimacy. To learn more about the 8 Limbs of Yoga order a set of our 8 Limbs of Yoga Practice Cards.