What are the 5 Yamas in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali?

When aligning our frequencies, we often use yoga as a discipline, a tool. The 8 limbs of yoga of the Yoga Sutras by Pantanjali guide various actions and behaviors we can move through as we align our frequencies and grow spiritually.

The two limbs we are focused on here are the Yamas and the Niyamas, which sit as the first two limbs of the 8 limbs of yoga.

Here, we will look deeper into Yamas. Read more about Niyamas here.

The Yamas (Restraints) are Nonviolence, Truthfulness, Nonstealing, Nonexcess, and Nonpossessiveness. These cultivate alignment and raise our frequency in its manner.

Each of these five elements is a gem that allows us to lead a more fulfilled life in our interaction with ourselves, society, and nature; they are guidelines, tenets, ethical disciplines, precepts, or restraints.

The 5 Yamas – Restraints - Explained

1. Nonviolence – Ahimsa


Nonviolence is the concept of not harming oneself or others, not only physical harm but also psychological harm. We must be gentle with ourselves and others in our speech and thought patterns to avoid harming each other through negative manifestations.

We must not live in fear but rather summon the courage we need to march through everyday interactions with life, ourselves, others, and our environment.

Ultimately, we must have compassion for ourselves and others. The old saying goes, "Don't be too hard on yourself”.

2. Truthfulness – Satya

Truthfulness in living is how we communicate with ourselves and others. Being honest enables us to grow and correct behaviors and actions that no longer support our highest selves. But it does not mean we are insensitive to people’s feelings and cause harm to our truthfulness.

Instead, there needs to be a balance in how we deliver the truth in the message in a way that is digestible, relatable, and non-confrontational.

It allows us to digest and act on the information rather than become defensive.

3. Nonstealing – Asteya


We must be careful not to steal from others, ourselves, and nature. When we speak of stealing, we are not merely talking about the act of physically stealing an item, but more specifically stealing time, stealing healing by focusing on the negative, stealing energy by dissipating it on things that no longer serve us or others, and stealing functionality/purpose of relationship and/or interactions.

These are just a few concepts that bleed into the larger philosophy of nonstealing. We must not waste time or energy on things that don’t cultivate growth physically, spiritually, or emotionally.

4. Nonexcess – Brahmacharya

Here, we are interested in moving away from greed and overindulgence. In most cases, we allow our pleasure centers triggered by our five senses to control and lead us into various situations.

We often mistake a want for a need which compounds the feeling of never attaining fulfillment and, without it, we can never be satisfied or, rather, we can never accept that we have enough of a given item, action, or emotion to live a fulfilled life.

We may turn to moments of celibacy or fasting to put our practice of nonexcess into motion. Nonexcess in taming our overindulgences, which turns us away from greed and into the light of appreciation for all we have.

5. Non possessiveness – Aparigraha


It can also be articulated as nonattachment, non-greed, non-clinging, non-grasping, and non-coveting. It is the act of letting go of things, whether they serve us or not.

They come and exit our lives with ease. Too many times we become attached to things, people, emotions, and behaviors that no longer serve us. We search for the initial pleasure or fulfillment from these things grasping harder and harder only to allow life to pass us by and become stuck.

Through non-possessiveness, we allow life to manifest in the most fulfilling way possible without allowing the things we possess to possess us and, thus, gain a newfound intimacy with ourselves and our environment.