The Yamas and the Ten Commandments
Many spiritualities have guidelines or rules to help the believer live their fullest life. Catholicism and yoga are no different. Both the yamas and the niyamas of ashtanga mirror the Ten Commandments sharply.
We will begin with the first limb of the eight limb yoga, the yamas. The yamas explain how we should treat the world. The yamas are: ahimsa, brahmacharya, asteya, satya, and aparigraha. We can understand the definition of each by viewing them through the lens of the last six of the Ten Commandments.
The Fifth Commandment, “You shall not kill” relates to ahimsa meaning “non-violence.” Clearly if one is not being violent against another, then that one certainly does not have the capacity of killing the other person. Through a Catholic point of view this commandment can mean anything that demeans yourself or another person. One of the biggest violations against these two disciplines in judgement. We should not judge our self or our capabilities inside and outside of the yoga class. We are beautifully created by one who loves us dearly and does not make mistakes. We should not compare our bloopers to everyone else's highlight reels. In the same way, we should not judge others because they are beautifully made by a God who is perfect in what He creates.
The Sixth Commandment is “You shall not commit adultery” which relates to brahmacharya which means “right use of energy” or “chastity.” Brahmacharya is separating yourself from worldly things to become fully devoted to your connection with God. The Catholic teaching of chastity is to fully devote your body to God if called to a single life, e.i. consecrated life or religious life, or to save your body for your spouse in marriage which is a union between the spouses and God. The hope is to remain pure so that the body is open to receive the gifts from God. Also using your body to worship God and not to perform any acts against the union of marriage which cannot exist without God being present.
The Seventh Commandment is “You shall not steal” which relates to asteya literally meaning “non-stealing.” Stealing can be of physical possessions or traits more complex. You should not steal people's time particularly showing up extremely late to a yoga class or, for teachers, letting the class run over. You should refrain from stealing someone's confidence as to recognize their gifts from God.
The Eighth Commandment is “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” which relates to satya which literally means “truthfulness.” In the yoga studio, this can mean being honest with your body and only doing poses that are comfortable for you and challenge you. For example, one day you may be able to do wheel and the next day you may need to stay in child's pose the whole time. Bringing our faith into our lives, we should be honest with who we are to the people around us.
The Ninth and Tenth Commandment go in-hand with the remaining yama. The Ninth Commandment, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,” and, the Tenth Commandment, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods,” both relate to aparigraha meaning “non-covetousness.” Envy is one of the seven deadly sins because it is a falsehood towards ourselves and God that what we have been blessed with is not enough. By living a simple life, we can be in the world but not of the world.
Next week, we will continue with the second limb, the niyamas. As always if you have any questions or comments, please comment below!
Peace and Namaste,