YAMAS – THE FIRST LIMB OF YOGA

                YAMAS OR UNIVERSAL CODE OF CONDUCT – THE FIRST LIMB OF YOGA

Flow represents the state of being “completely involved in an activity for its own sake, where ego falls away, and time stands still.  Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one,” without conscious thought and minimum effort (Flow as defined by American psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi).  This is the state of Flow, Yoga can help you experience.

Yoga is the science of discipline that achieves the union of the inner consciousness or soul with the universal consciousness or the “Divine.”  Yoga is also described as the selfless dedication to an activity in the interests of a greater good, something way and beyond the Self.  It is also the union of the inner consciousness with the object of focus or devotion.  This union can be described as the state where your whole being is absorbed in an activity and the sense of time is lost.

By definition, in Yoga something happens, something that is desired by the person who has embarked upon the Yoga path.  Contrary to popular belief, the practice of Yoga does not bring anything new in our lives, but it remove obstacles that prevent us from recognizing and activating the latent potential within us, activation of which will lead to self realization.  Self realization is freedom from dualities – the opposites that plague us throughout life and prevent us from absolute knowledge.  For example, when you say something is good, it implies that something else is bad.  Similarly, if something is beautiful, then something else must be ugly.  Once you become aware of this, you will start seeing everything and everybody without judgment, and dualities such as good and bad, beautiful and ugly, success and failure, attachment and aversion, black and white will disappear.  This is perhaps the most important gift that will result from the practice of yoga, because once you lose dualities, that are you stop worrying of success or failure in a task, you are in the present and able to engage in the task with total commitment.  This attitude and awareness of detachment, is what leads to success, happiness and sense of achievement.

In this article, I will talk about Yamas, also called Cardinal rules, universal morality, or universal code of conduct.  They are not limited to any religion, race, ethnicity, gender, nationality or other categories.  Yamas are all about living consciously, realizing our desires in making the world a better place, being considerate in our actions, and placing the well being of others ahead of us.  Naturally, Yamas are about recognizing that all human beings are pure, wholesome, resourceful, and reflect our own divinity.  The same things apply in the workplace – recognizing the uniqueness of individuals, recognizing and honoring their talents, respecting and holding fellow workers scared, creating a trusting, open and transparent workplace free of gossip, growing and helping others grow and emphasizing team work and creativity for better productivity and profits.  Yamas are the end result of the practice of yoga, and will help live a life of purpose, happiness, and full of meaning.

The Yamas mentioned in the Yoga Sutras are:

 Ahimsa – The literal translation of Ahimsa is Nonviolence. The opposite is Himsa, violence.  On the surface this is an easy concept to understand.  The first thing that comes to mind is violence against other human beings, animals and other life forms.  This is true.  But when you look closely, and ask yourself – what else constitutes violence against others?  What constitutes violence against self? – The true meaning of Ahimsa is revealed.

Let us consider how do we inflict harm and commit violence on ourselves.  Anytime you are critical about yourself you are committing violence.  This occurs when we believe that we have not put in 100% effort in accomplishing a task, failed in achieving what we set out for, or failed to complete it in a manner we envisioned.  We are also committing violence when we berate ourselves because we failed to live up to our values.  Self doubt, uncertainty, comparisons, judgment, defensiveness and depression all constitute violation of Ahimsa.

How about gossip?  This is also an act of Himsa.  When you gossip about someone else, you are showing disrespect, inconsideration, and total lack of compassion.  Manipulation, coercion, blame, sarcasm, and bad humor are all acts of violence.

Even simple things like staying at work beyond normal working hours, failure to take rest or stretch breaks from your desk, ignoring nourishment at work, and working until exhaustion constitute violence.  This is because you are hurting your body, the temple where your inner divinity resides.  when you hurt your body, you will cause yourself pain and injury that will take away your attention and ability to complete tasks at hand.  This will result in time off work, cost the organization time, resources and money and thus contribute to lower output, quality, and profits.  This will also result when you fail to report unsafe conditions, because this could cause an accident or cause bodily injury to others.

Compromise of values, flouting of organizational ethics and staying quite when your feedback could prevent loss are all examples of Himsa.  This is caused due to misalignment with our values, causing distress, self criticism, and suppression of feelings that will result in disruption in the free flow of energy or prana within our bodies.

SatyaSatya means truth.  The opposite is Asatya or falsehood, lies, and misrepresentation.  Satya means telling the truth as you see it, while being aware that yours is not the only version of truth.  This is due to the fact that what you see as true is your perspective and interpretation.  This occurs due to ones point of view, beliefs, context, and hidden biases we are all guilty of.   Even when you cannot engender warm feelings, love, and compassion towards somebody, it is necessary to communicate truthfully and precisely.  If speaking the truth has negative consequences for another, then it is better to remain silent because satya should never come into conflict with ahimsa.  Now turning it the other way, if you choose to remain silent when information you possess, feedback you can provide, or skepticism you share can help in making a decision, or improve upon the quality of the decision, then you are violating satya.  Projecting judgment, making assumptions, and providing feedback that is unhelpful is also violation of satya because this will result in himsa and satya cannot b in conflict with satya.

AsteyaAsteya literally means non-stealing.  The opposite is Steya or stealing.  When you analyze it a bit further, asteya means taking only that which is freely given, not taking something that belongs to others, and taking only enough without demanding more than necessary.  This calls for developing conditions in our lives that foster self sufficiency and contentment.

In our everyday lives steya appears as constantly showing up late for work and meetings, sending unnecessary e-mails, checking Twitter and Face book updates and messages in a meeting, interrupting coworkers in conversation or when they are busy with work, gossip, rumors, being unprepared for presentations, micromanaging, stealing credit, and not providing necessary and helpful feedback.  All of the above will result in stealing time, wasting time, and wasting resources from others and your employer and giving less than your best to your employer.  Remember, anytime you are contributing to the knowledge, growth, quality of environment, and happiness of an individual or organization, you are practicing asteya.

BrahmacharyaBrahmacharya means restraint, continence, and celibacy.  The intent of Brahmacharya is to practice control of senses or “being impeccable” in thought, words and actions.  This will naturally lead to productive expenditure of energies, balance in life, and moderation.  When you apply this principle to intimacy and sexual life, it means sexual fidelity for married couples, practice of safe sex for sexually active couples, and responsible intimacy in enhancing happiness and quality of relationship.  Brahmacharya leads to control of sensual cravings, taking action against sexual abuse, and focusing thoughts, energies and actions in the service of conscious and meaningful intentions.  The practice of asana and pranayama will enhance your ability to embrace brahmacharya.

AparigrahaAparigraha literally means non-greed.  In the larger context, aparigraha means generosity, simple living, and performing actions without expectations of rewards.  Greed represents an unsatisfied state of mind.  Unfulfilled cravings results in the appearance of greed.  Freed of greed we gain the ability to see how desires affect our experience of life itself.   In the end, affluence is not a matter of what you have, but what you don’t lack.  The core philosophy of karma yoga as expressed in Bhagwad Gita, – Be intent on action, not on the fruits of action.  Perform all actions, relinquishing attachment and be impartial to success and failure.  Avoid attachment to inaction – summarizes aparigraha.

These principles of moral conduct can be inculcated in our lives by practice of Yoga.  The second limb of Yoga describes the Niyamas of personal practices that will help us inculcate Yamas in our lives.  As a matter of fact, each one of the eight limbs should be incorporated in our lives simultaneously since they support the incorporation of the other practices.  There is no particular order in which to follow the eight limbs of Yoga.  They all go together.

About Kammitment:  Led by scientist and life-coach Kamalesh (Kam) Rao, Kammitment helps you realize and make a commitment towards self-actualization, through tailored leadership coaching, workshops and programs for students and professionals in all stages of their lives, by drawing upon the time-tested principles of Yoga and Mindfulness.  Kam has spent 20 years as a scientist and a manufacturing professional in the pharmaceuticals industry, and continues to consult with the industry.  In his free time he leads executive coaching programs for Fortune 100 clients.  A certified Yoga instructor, Kam lives in Oakland, CA and is an Improv actor who also enjoys Salsa dancing when he is not practicing Yoga or hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  For further information, please email [email protected]

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