The Five Yamas

Yamas, and its complement, Niyamas, represent a series of "right living" or ethical rules within Hinduism and Yoga. These are a form of moral imperatives, commandments, rules or goals. Every religion has a code of conduct, or series of "do's and don'ts", and the Yamas represent one of the "don't" lists within Hinduism, and specifically, Raja Yoga.

A yama (Sanskrit) यम, literally "death", is a rule or code of conduct for living which will help bring a compassionate death to the ego or "the lower self". The yamas comprise the "shall-not" in our dealings with the external world as the Niyamas comprise the "shall-do" in our dealings with the inner world.

Ten Yamas are codified as "the restraints" in numerous scriptures including the Shandilya and Varaha Upanishads, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Gorakshanatha, and the Tirumantiram of Tirumular. Patañjali lists only five yamas in his Yoga Sutras.

In the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali, the yamas are the first limb of the eight limbs of Raja Yoga. They are found in the Sadhana Pada Verse 30 as:

1.Ahimsa (अहिंसा): non-harming
2.Satya (सत्य): absence of falsehood
3.Asteya (अस्तेय): non-stealing
4.Brahmacharya (ब्रह्मचर्य): appropriate use of vital essence
5.Aparigraha (अपरिग्रह): absence of avarice

In Raja Yoga, observance of the abstinences, or yamas, help attain a healthy mind and body. As Hatha Yoga is the yoga for attaining control over the mortal body, the yamas (together with the niyamas) are its essential first two steps. Further, the Patanjali states that it is not enough to observe them for their individual ends (i.e. eradication of hostility, conquering self, etc.); one must follow them without a desire for any end goals. The secret to attainment of these is to harness the mind into thinking of the opposite of the element one needs to overcome.


Sanskrit: Devanagari; अहिंसा; IAST ahiṃsā, Pāli: avihiṃsā) is a term meaning to do no harm (literally: the avoidance of violence - himsa). It is an important tenet of the Indian religions (Hinduism, Buddhism and especially Jainism). Ahimsa means kindness and non-violence towards all living things including animals; it respects living beings as a unity, the belief that all living things are connected. Indian leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi strongly believed in this principle. Avoidance of verbal and physical violence is also a part of this principle, although ahimsa recognizes self-defense when necessary, as a sign of a strong spirit. It is closely connected with the notion that all kinds of violence entail negative karmic consequences.


Satya is a Sanskrit word that loosely translates into English as "truth" or "correct". It is a term of power due to its purity and meaning and has become the emblem of many peaceful social movements, particularly those centered on social justice, environmentalism and vegetarianism.

Sathya is also defined in Sanskrit as "sate hitam satyam" which translates to "The path to ultimate truth or Sat is sathya (i.e. the real truth)".

Hence all the deeds, words, and wisdom that takes closer to the Ultimate Truth are the truth.


Asteya is a Sanskrit word meaning "avoidance of stealing" or "non-stealing". In Jainism, it is one of the five vows that all sravakas and shravikas as well as sadhus and sadhvis must take.

The concept of "Asteya" is also a principal part of Hinduism, forming one of the core principles that all human beings should try to abide by. Traditionally it is one among the 10 Yamas and in Yogasutra it is one among the 5 Yamas or disciplines. The concept is frequently confused as being an equivalent of the Biblical commandment "Thou shall not steal" although in principle it means more than that. Asteya refers to not stealing, not coveting, nor hoarding, as well as not obstructing other people's desires in life. Swami Jyotirmanda of Miami's Yoga Ashram frequently states that "all the wealth of the world will be drawn to one who has mastered the practice and discipline of Asteya." This is analogous to the Christian (Biblical) saying, "The meek shall inherit the world."


Brahamcharya (pronounced /ˌbrɑːməˈtʃɑrjə/; Devanagari: ब्रह्मचर्य under the tutelage of Brahman) refers to an approximate period of 14–20 years of formal education in the traditional sciences, astronomy and religious texts contained within the Vedas and Upanishads, is also characterised by the practice of strict celibacy. Alternatively, Brahmacharya also denotes life long celibacy coupled preferably with devotion to spiritual endeavours. A Brahmachari is a male and brahmacharini a female. These characteristics correspond to Western notions of the religious life as practiced in monastic settings.


Aparigraha is the concept of non-possessiveness, being both a Jain concept and a part of the Raja Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga traditions. The term usually means to limit possessions to what is necessary or important, which changes with the time period, though sadhus would not have any possessions.

It is one of the five principles of Jainism, along with Ahimsa (non-violence), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (celibacy), and Anekantvada (multiplicity of viewpoints). It is also one of the five limited vows.

In the Raja Yoga tradition, it is one of the Yamas or codes of self-restraint, along with Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (not stealing), and Brahmacharya (celibacy).

Aparigraha is the sanksrit word for greedlessness or non-grasping. It comes from the word parigraha, which means reaching out for something and claiming it for oneself; by adding the 'A' it becomes the antonym. Aparigraha unlike Asteya means taking what is truly necessary and no more. This concept also holds true, when applying for gifts, which are not to be accepted.