The Yamas: How Yoga Helps Relationships

yamas2The Yamas, or great vows, are the first of the 8 limbs of yoga. Though Yama means to restrain and abstain, the Yamas are not about denying ourselves pleasure – they’re about learning to adopt healthy boundaries and become more skillful in the choices we make. The Yamas are like the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. They provide us with powerful guidelines for how to interact with others, as well as ourselves.

  1. Ahimsa or non-harming. It can be difficult to grow and embrace who we are if we are always beating ourselves down. Furthermore, the visible wars we create with those around us are oftentimes a reflection of the invisible warfare within us. When we become conscious and aware of how we are treating ourselves and work to heal negative patterns of thinking, it helps bring peace to all the relationships we hold.
  2. Satya or truthfulness. Sounds simple enough, but sometimes we obscure difficult truths in relationships because it may hurt the other persons feelings. This is where ahimsa and Satya work hand in hand – do we tell the truth if it causes pain? To be in an authentic and connected relationship, we have to risk being vulnerable and exposed by sharing our deepest truths. If we don’t, we deny both ourselves and the people we love our brilliance. Being true to who we are also allows us to discern those that nourish us from those that need to be released. Sometimes love is learning how to let go with kindness and forgiveness.
  3. Asteya or non-stealing. This doesn’t only mean the physical act of stealing – it can also be how we steal energy, time, etc from ourselves and others. In addition, when we live in envy or jealousy of what others have, we may take more than we really need. When we can observe how we leak energy, we can take the steps to fill the holes with self-love and understanding.
  4. Brahmacharya or continence. Although this Yama is related to celibacy, it’s more about how we give and take energy in our sexual relationships. This Yama asks us to look at how we engage with intimacy – are we bound to our cravings for sex, or are we allowing our sexual nature to be expressed within the context of a loving and connected relationship? It’s like having an amazing meal – you want to enjoy the sensual nature of eating without overindulging and getting sick.
  5. Aparigraha or non-greed. Our yoga practice is fertile  ground to observe how we engage in our poses. Do we push and take more than we can truly handle? Balancing how much we truly need in our yoga practice strengthens a muscle of discernment that we can take off the mat. Learning the give and take in our asana practice is a reminder that love is beautiful blend of giving and receiving.

To further see how yoga can help cultivate healthy relationships, try my Yoga & Relationships online yoga class on MyYogaWorks.com!

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unnamed-3Mia Togo grew up in the small town of Murrieta, Ca. She was an avid equestrian and dancer, both of which helped pave the way to her love and devotion of yoga. It was in the practice of Vinyasa yoga that she began to feel her body as a temple for healing rather than struggle. She studied with many teachers, finding wisdom from different styles and philosophies. With much respect for all forms of yoga, her passion is Vinyasa. She has been a Yogaworks certified teacher and teacher trainer since 2004. She is also a mentor for the 300-hour program at Yogaworks. Mia teaches with an emphasis on detailed alignment so there is an intelligence and a purpose to her sequencing. To learn more about Mia, visit her website, follow her on Facebook and twitter @miatogo.

You can practice yoga with Mia Togo at YogaWorks, or with her online yoga classes on MyYogaWorks.com

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