The five Yamas are basic moral and ethical principles that shape our ability to live properly in our society. They help a person to overcome in-built and acquired negative qualities to instead develop the best qualities in oneself.
As one of the main commandments in Christianity, non-injury and non-violence mean to not hurt other people. Moreover, even not to speak and not to think about harming others. Ahimsa should be maintained at three separate levels: body, speech and mind. According to yoga teachings, all things are united; thus, both good and bad actions will inevitably return to their source. To contaminate global unity with violence is a big sin.
This principle must also be followed at three levels. Truthfulness in thoughts and words is clear, but how does it work with our body? Take, for example, an asana. Often, sensing imbalance of the asana, we pay more attention to stronger parts while being lenient with weaker parts. We may, for example, bend the leg or lean on a hand; thus, we are cheating ourselves and our own body.
The Biblically eternal truth about the sinfulness of theft also applies to jealousy as it entails the desire to possess others’ belongings. We further note that stealing is a form of violence, only for selfish reasons. Moreover, this yama should be observed with respect to oneself, for example, if a person leads an excessive and unhealthy lifestyle, he is robbing himself of his own health.
This yama causes the strongest resistance and also many controversies, which is quite natural for humans. It’s necessary to understand that the question here is not about taking a vow of celibacy and sexual abstinence. Two roots of the composed word “Brahma” and “Charya” are translated from Sanskrit as “Supreme Spirit” and “to follow”. Therefore, in a broad sense, Brahmacharya is the path to spirituality, albeit with a narrow meaning, as it entails control over one’s desires, chastity, and marital fidelity.
Do not take more than you need, do not get attached to things, and share with the poor – that is the meaning of this yama. For the sake of explanation, B. K. S. Iyengar wrote: “The energy must flow freely, otherwise the source will dry up”.
We see that the yamas are “five don’ts”. But adherence to these rules does not simply entail suppression and denial; it involves the development of positive qualities rather than negative ones.