Yama are the 5 don'ts described by sage Patanjali, which must be followed first and foremost by any person aspiring to lead the yogic life. Yama are the various restraints we need to place on ourselves in order to maintain a balanced life style. Though these restraints may seem more to with social conduct, they actually play a major role in how we behave with ourselves.
1) Ahimsa : Non violence - along with not harmony others physically or verbally, Ahimsa also dictates not having vengeful, sinful or judgmental thoughts about others as well as ourselves. 2) Satya : Truthfulness/not lying - we must always be truthful to others and ourselves. Lying, more often than not, feels the easy way out. Indeed, few people have the courage to be truthful or even gave the truth 3) Asteya : Not stealing - not to covet that which is not ours. It also entail not being heaps of other's possessions out successes. 4) Brahmacharya : Celibacy /not over indulging in sexual activities. It can also be interpreted as having moderation in every aspect of life i.e. action, speech and thought 5) Aparigraha : Non possessiveness - to understand that nothing in life is permanent and this not being attached to one's possessions.
Looking at the Yama, it is apparent that they are directed towards reducing the Rajasika and Tamasika tendencies in us. A person cannot hope to achieve success in yoga of he/she is over powered by these tendencies. Also these rules are not easy to follow, as they will test our resilience at every step. But the key is not not give up and keep practicing.
Dr. Deepa Nair (BAMS, MD-yoga)