Yamas (Sanskrit: यम), and its complement, Niyamas, represent a series of "right living" or ethical rules within Hinduism and Yoga. It means "reining in" or "control". These are restraints for Proper Conduct as given in the Holy Veda. They are a form of moral imperatives, commandments, rules or goals. The Yamas are the "don't do these" list of self-restraints, typically representing commitments that affect one's relations with others and self.[1] The complementary Niyamas represent the "do these" list of observances, and together Yamas and Niyamas are personal obligations to live well.[1]

The earliest mention of the word Yamas is in the Rigveda, and over fifty texts of Hinduism, from its various traditions, discuss Yamas.[2] Patañjali lists five yamas in his Yoga Sūtras. Ten yamas are codified as "the restraints" in numerous Hindu texts including Yajnavalkya Smriti in verse 3.313,[3] the Śāṇḍilya and Vārāha Upanishads, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Svātmārāma,[4] and the Tirumantiram of Tirumular.[5][6]

The most often mentioned Yamas are – Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (non-falsehood, truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Mitahara (non-excess in food, moderation in food), Kṣamā (non-agitation about suffering, forgiveness), Dayā (non-prejudgment, compassion) are among the widely discussed Yamas.[2] The Yamas apply broadly and include self-restraints in one's actions, words and thoughts.[7]

Etymology and meaning

The earliest mention of Yamas is found in the Hindu scripture Rigveda, such as in verse 5.61.2.[3][8] The word in the Rigveda means a "rein, curb", the act of checking or curbing, restraining such as by a charioteer or a driver.[3] The term evolves into a moral restraint and ethical duty in the Jain Agamas.[3][9]

Yamas is the Sanskrit word for "restraint," states Stephen Sturgess, particularly "from actions, words, or thoughts that may cause harm".[10]