Yama: Eliminate Suffering and Cultivate Better Relationships


his article excerpt covers Yoga Sutra 2.30 and centers around the Sanksrit word Yama.  Again, what you read below is an introduction to the Yoga Sutras and  a part of our broader series covering the Yoga Sutras for Beginners, which is 15 article excerpts in total. 

Each of the article excerpts within this series will give you a sneak peek into the wonderful work created by Yogi and author, Melissa Lavery, whose complete book, The Yogic Lifestyle: A Foundation for Freedom is available at select distributors throughout the US as well as Amazon’s online bookstore.

All content excerpts are provided with permission by the publisher.

The book itself is organized into 3 parts and further divided into each of the 15 categories below:

The Yogic Lifestyle: A Foundation for Relationships

  1. Shanti: How to Maintain Personal Peace and Power in Relationships
  2. Yama: How to Eliminate Suffering and Cultivate a Better Relationship with the World
  3. Niyama: How to Cultivate a Better Relationship with Yourself and Commit to Personal Self-Care
  4. Pratipaksa Bhavana: How to Navigate Conflicting World-views and Build Relationships with Anyone
  5. Samadhi: How the Inner Journey Toward Self Will Bring You Closer to the Divine Consciousness

The Yogic Lifestyle: A Foundation for Health

  1. Asana: The Health Benefits of a Physical Practice (On and Off the Mat)
  2. Pranayama: How to Maintain Health Through Breath Awareness
  3. Samyama: How to Travel the Meditative Path to Health and Wellness
  4. Nidra: How to Improve Your Sleep Quality to Enhance Health and Wellness
  5. Sauca: How Cleanliness Paves the Path to Holistic Health

The Yogic Lifestyle: A Foundation for Abundance

  1. Klesa: How to Eliminate Ego’s Control and Cultivate an Identity that Attracts Abundance
  2. Satya: How Authenticity Leads to Attracting Abundance
  3. Astreya: How to Practice Non-Stealing to Attract Wealth and Abundance
  4. Aparigraha: How the Practice of Non-Hoarding Can Benefit Your Wallet and Illumniate Your Path
  5. Sadhana: How Consistent Practice Creates a Strong Foundation for an Abundant Life

The Yogic Lifestyle: A Foundation for Freedom

Yama: How to Eliminate Suffering and Cultivate a Better Relationship with the World

Yama consists of nonviolence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, and non-greed.

The Golden Rule transcends time and culture. Like the precious metal, this sage advice can transmute the lead in our external experiences to refined and joyous living. Treating others the way you wish to be treated seems simple, but with the complexities that exist in the world, we often find ourselves struggling with interpersonal relationships. However, with the ancient wisdom of yoga, it is possible to travel the path of limited suffering and abide in a better relationship with the outside world.

Our relationship with the world is multifaceted: We exist in communion with family, friends, lovers, coworkers, neighbors, and even strangers. Every day we experience life alongside other beings, which include animals and our environment. These relationships span from within the walls of our homes to the vast reaches of the planet. The beliefs, practices, and behaviors we espouse can differ greatly from any one of these entities.

To practice yoga and live a yogic lifestyle, one must follow the eight-fold path described in the Yoga Sūtras. As described many times throughout this book, the path consists of the following eight limbs:

  1. Yama (abstinences)
  2. Niyama (observances)
  3. Āsana (postures)
  4. Prāṇāyāma (breath control)
  5. Pratyāhāra (sensory withdrawal)
  6. Dharāṇā (concentration)
  7. Dyhāna (meditation)
  8. Samādhi (absorption)

This chapter will focus on the first limb or rung of this ladder—Yama. In Sanskrit, yama translates to “moral discipline”. This discipline describes the thoughts, speech, and actions we put out into the external world. There are five yamas we must consider when relating to the world, which are reflected in many spiritual practices and governmental laws:

  1. Ahiṁsā (non-violence)
  2. Satya (truthfulness)
  3. Asteya (non-stealing)
  4. Brahmacharya (continence)
  5. Aparigrahā (non-covetousness)

When we abide by these ethical principles, laid out in many teachings, including the Yoga Sūtras, we can make a positive impact on everything we encounter and work to eliminate suffering on a collective level.

How to Control Your Behavior to Support External Relationships

Yoga practice and application is about strengthening your physical, mental, and emotional capacities. The intention of living a yogic lifestyle is to improve your life, relieve suffering, and obtain peace. A part of this peace includes how you interact with the world around you and how the world reacts to your action (or inaction). 

Karma is our actions, words, and thoughts that elicit a response. This response is an energetic impression, the low- or high-level energies of our emotions—sadness/joy, love/hate, fear/courage, etc. According to Nicolai Bachman, author of “The Path of the Yoga Sutras”, karma can come from us or can come from an external source, such as a conversation, movie, or other sensory experience. 

Whether these impressions are subtle or dramatic, these energies affect our heart-mind. Even the laws of physics acknowledge there exists “an equal and opposite reaction” to an initial action. Think of these actions as ripples in a pond: Eventually, they will move an object downstream. 

The impact, imprint, or impression these actions make ultimately become our saṁskāras, which means “formations”. These mental impressions occur when we intake sensory stimuli and assimilate the experience into our memories. These memories of the event influence our behaviors, whether the event was benign or traumatic. 

Every person you meet experiences this phenomenon. Animals, plants, and even the weather/climate demonstrate the repercussions of cause and effect. When we begin to realize the enormous impact each and every action has upon the faculties of our heart-mind, you will understand the importance of emitting positive, high-level energy into the world. 

Ahiṁsā (Non-Violence)

In the presence of one firmly established in nonviolence, all hostilities cease.

The first yama, or abstinence, is ahiṁsā. Ahiṁsā is the act of non-violence. Non-violence includes the tenets of compassion, forgiveness, and non-judgement. To practice ahiṁsā is to live in a manner that intends to reduce harm in all actions. In a way, all the yamas espouse the moral principle that is non-violence. When we abstain from violence, deceit, stealing, misusing our energy, and greed, we work to prevent harm.

The Effects of Violence on Others and Yourself

Violence can include mental, emotional, and physical abuse. When we harm someone, the effects are far reaching. The negative action will influence the person, animal, or object that receives the harmful action. The effects could be that a person or animal retaliates, or becomes deflated and unable to live according to their purpose. An inanimate object can break, which also diminishes its usefulness. We harm others and ourselves in the following ways:

  1. When we physically hurt a person, animal, nature, or inanimate object, we can cause irreparable damage. We can also suffer through the ramifications of such an event.
  2. When we think or speak negatively about someone or something, we act to end that person’s or object’s life. In the same way that physical violence can lead to death or trauma, being cut off from society (through the use of rumors or a bad reputation) is a form of death.
  3. When we listen to hateful speech, watch violent movies, or participate in activities that emit low-energetic frequencies (fear, anger, ignorance, etc.), we increase our chances of hostility.
  4. When we react to negativity through retaliatory behaviors, we subject ourselves and others to cycles of violence.

Violence is harmful, because it is disruptive. Adversely, unconditional love and kindness maintain stability. Kindness negates hostility. Hostility begets violence. These behaviors will become cyclical patterns, creating habits that continue to injure all parties involved. The key, according to the Yoga Sūtras, is to become the “antidote to violence” (Bachman, p. 146).

How to Practice Nonviolence

To begin acting in a nonviolent and compassionate way, it is essential to see the importance of everything we encounter, treating all objects—alive or inanimate—as purposeful and sacred in their origins. 

  • Instead squashing unwanted vermin or insects in your home, see each as having a purpose. Try to collect these critters and release them, or let them be. 

… (end of excerpt)

The Yogic Lifestyle: A Foundation for Freedom

Wrapping Up

… to continue reading from this chapter of The Yogic Lifestyle: A Foundation for Freedom please visit and order from the book’s page on Amazon.com. Again, we hope you found this valuable and wish you health and happiness along your journey. Namaste.

Caleb Sharbono is a writer, bio-hacker, wellness advocate, and yogi. Caleb, who grew up on a small Montana ranch, joined the Navy at 17 to study cryptology. He later graduated from the US Naval Academy with a Minor in Mandarin, a Bachelor's in General Engineering, and a Major in English Literature. Caleb's interests and career cover diverse industries and disciplines. Caleb lives in San Antonio and is a Certified Yoga Instructor. He is also studying Zen Buddhism, practicing Holistic Psychology, and working towards his 300-hour yoga teacher training.


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