Yoga Off the Mat: The Yamas

I started doing yoga around 2008. After I finished grad school, my overachieving, anxiety induced energy needed to turn to something else to obsess over. One week after finishing my last class, I signed up with a running group and begin training for a marathon. I threw myself into marathon training with the same intensity I did through my education. I pushed myself, ran through the pain and begin amassing damage to my knees, back and feet. I did not let that stop me. Over a three year period, I ran 9 marathons and 8 half-marathons.  I also experienced runners knee, plantar fasciitis and flair ups to my scoliosis.

I started going to yoga to help with the physical pain I was experiencing. I found great relief for my back, hips and knees and learned about a mind body connection. I started using some of the breathing techniques to help me with the ever looming anxiety. I found a wonderful teacher who I believe the universe placed in my life to begin a path towards healing. She often spoke about other aspects of yoga that begin to peak my interest and I realized there was something more there than a great, sweaty class or a relaxing stretch.

I did a bit of reading and researching and found out there were other branches to the yoga tree. 8, in fact. The poses, or asanas, were only 1 branch. The breath itself had a whole branch devoted to it. I had heard of meditation, but felt intimidated to try. The other branches were completely foreign sounding to me, yamas, niyamas, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. These sounded like dishes at an Indian food restaurant and I wondered how they would help me hold a handstand.

In 2012, when my father was murdered, I was forced to face my situation and choose a path to healing. Yoga was my salvation. I begin a dedicated meditation practice and used the principles I was learning about yoga to help me with processing the murder and subsequent grief. (You can read more about that journey by clicking here.)

In 2013, I went through my yoga teacher training. I expected to come out thinner, stronger and able to do “hard” poses. I had no expectations about actually teaching. After the 200 hour training, I had a much better knowledge of those other branches of the yoga tree and I had completely forgotten about how much I wanted to look cute in a back bend. I also knew I had to teach. I found a true passion that I wanted to continue exploring and sharing.

I continue to study and attempt to practice all 8 branches of the yoga tree. It will be a life long process. I set the intention this year to bring more of the other yoga branches into my teaching and help my students relate yogic philosophy both on and off their mat. I started off 2015 with teaching my beginner students about the chakras (you can read more about those by clicking here) and planning a chakra workshop for June.

Beginning this week, I will start teaching about the Yamas. There are 5 Yamas, which are also known as restraints or disciplines for ourselves and the way we interact with others. The Yamas are:

  • Ahimsa (non-violence)
  • Satya (truth)
  • Asteya (non-stealing)
  • Brahmacharya (maintenance of vitality)
  • Aparigraha (non-possessiveness)

Over the next 5 weeks, I will explore my relationship to each Yama through the Mantra Monday posts, in conjunction with my teaching in beginners yoga class. When I first thought of doing this, I had no idea how I would theme a 75 minute yoga class completely on each Yama, but as I sat down to work on it, Spirit guided me and the classes are all prepared. I am ready to do this work for myself and share it with others.


3 thoughts on “Yoga Off the Mat: The Yamas

  1. Reblogged this on blaXis and commented:
    I will try to join you in the journey of discovering my own relationship to each of those! I will incorporate them into my yoga classes this week, work as well as fitness/health routines. Thank you for sharing your journey, I look forward to reading ❤


    • Thank-you for reading and the re-blog! I appreciate you being willing to explore these along with me. I would love to hear any insights you have along the way. Thank-you for staying connected to me, your support and words mean a lot. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Mantra Monday: “I Am Non-Violent.” | Sisters on a Spiritual Journey

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