The Wave, thoughts on Yamas

I got poked today… for the cyber ignorant that means someone sent me a message that meant they were thinking of me and that poke didn’t require a response. It was a first for me… It sounds a bit rude but less noxious than prod, less strange than tickle, but I was thinking that wave might be a good substitute. When you’re driving and driving well you give way to people, you don’t tailgate, you are patient yet after allowing another car to slide into the traffic in front of you and receiving no acknowledgment it gets more and more difficult to be patient. Yet a wave from the other driver redeems all the irritations.

This activity when you think about it must make you realize how interdependent we are. If someone waves a thank you to you, just an open handed gesture, something softens inside you and you are subsequently nicer yet again to other drivers and pedestrians on every level. The reverse is also true. A few days ago a few friends and myself were discussing road rage, our own and the consequences of others’ self righteous anger.  A lot of people go about their lives with a sense of entitlement that is not warranted by their position in life or anything else really. No one is immune to this.

I was driving in North Sydney looking for a parking space in a relatively narrow street. I was driving at nana speed, I admit that. A big car swooped up behind me and within seconds is honking its horn at me and through the rear view window I could see a man flaying his hands about.

I found a parking spot and parked. Mr Big-Car still gesticulating and tooting rolled his window down and yelled unprintable insults at me. I was justifiably annoyed and stuck the middle finger of my right hand up at him.  Big mistake….he stopped his car got out and stood at the door of my car yelling more of the unprintable invective calling into question all sorts of aspects of my womanhood… I started calling the cops and fossicking for a pencil or eye liner to write down his car registration number.  He tried to open my car door, I thought my time was up but the door was locked and he settled for a vicious kick at my wheel.

My point being that Mr Big-Car had some issues going that had nothing to do with me and I connected myself to him by my immature need to react to his self absorbed anger.  Mr Big-Car was my greatest teacher, at the time.  I don’t give my anger away any more, I don’t connect with another’s anger by any outward sign or symptom.  I may be boiling inside but that belongs to me and the person who evokes anger in me is merely reflecting a part of myself I don’t want to know about.  Mr Big-Car by putting me in danger underlined in big-black–thick-life-texta that emotions expressed reactively can be dangerous.

This last full moon was a doozie, lots of tired people, lots of people being more than slightly nutty, behaving with a pronounced sense of their right to impose while vigorously defending their right not to be imposed upon.

Yamas are recommended codes of personal conduct to help bring you to inner clarity. Ten yamas are listed as “the self-restraints” in numerous scriptures including the Shandilya and Varaha Upanishads, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Gorakshanatha, and the Tirumantiram of Tirumular.

Patañjali lists only five yamas in his Yoga Sūtras.

The ten traditional yamas:

  1. Ahimsa  (अहिंसा): Nonviolence. Abstinence from injury that arises out of love for all, harmlessness, the not causing of pain to any living creature in thought, word, or deed at any time. This and Satya  (सत्य) are the “main” yama. The other eight are there in support of its accomplishment.
  2. Satya (सत्य): truthfulness, word and thought in conformity with the facts, honesty.
  3. Asteya   (अस्तेय): non-stealing, non-coveting, non-entering into debt.
  4. Brahmacharya  (ब्रह्मचर्य): being constantly aware of the universe, immersed in divinity, divine conduct, continence, celibate when single, faithfulness when married.
  5. Kshama  (क्षमा): patience, releasing time, functioning in the now.
  6. Dhriti  (धृति): steadfastness, overcoming non-perseverance, fear, and indecision; seeing each task through to completion.
  7. Daya   (दया): compassion; conquering callous, cruel and insensitive feelings toward all beings.
  8. Arjava  (अर्जव): honesty, straightforwardness, renouncing deception and wrongdoing.
  9. Mitahara  (मितहार): moderate regulated appetites.
  10. Shaucha शौच): purity, avoidance of impurity in body, mind and speech.

Five yamas of Patañjali:
In the Yoga Sūtras  of Patañjali, the following five yamas comprise the first limb of the eight limbs of Rāja yoga
They are stated in the Sadhana Pada Verse 30 as:

  1. Ahimsa  (अहिंसा): non-violence
  2. Satya  (सत्य): benevolent truth, absence of falsehood
  3. Asteya   (अस्तेय): non-stealing
  4. Brahmacharya   (ब्रह्मचर्य): spiritual advancement by education and training.
  5. Aparigraha (अपरिग्रह): non-appropriation, absence of avarice, don’t be greedy


When I stuck the middle finger of my right hand at Mr Big-Car, I was being stupid, violent, self engrossed, self righteous, callow, reactive, impatient and definitely unfriendly. I was reacting, not responding, in a way not consistent with my own best interests.  Here I am reading ancient tracts in an attempting to still my restless mind, engender a sense of calm and create balance and I submit to my reactive self righteous ego, not unlike Mr Big-Car, and I give in to impulsive behaviour. The mark of an adult is the ability to inhibit impulsive and habitual behaviour.

The Art of Yoga is designed to create within you a well of peaceful reserves that enables you to respond appropriately, even spaciously to events.  The science of yoga, with it’s quieting practices enables you to use a precise methodology individuated to moderate your natural tendencies and balance your energy. A simple example, a nervous young woman is given smooth, soothing movements as her first practice. A stubborn, stoic, materialistic man is stimulated with physical activities that engage his mind, create discipline and eventually regulate his breath and consciousness. Yoga is a process for everyone and it is a different process that brings you into now whatever that is for you and gives you the strength, technique, discipline and desire to be at the very least calmer in the face of adversity.

So when someone gives way to you acknowledge them with a wave, when you meet someone’s eyes, soften your eyes and give them a warm smile, when you are disappointed with yourself move on and do something that rekindles your self respect, balance and relaxation, rather than waste energy on being your own inner Mr Big-Car. You can try the poke option but that might be too weird for the luddites, but tell you what it got me thinking about how I respond to the world.

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