Yoga’s Moral Depth – The YAMAS


“The YAMAS are the great, mighty, universal vows, unconditioned by place, time, and class.”

Yoga Sutra II.31 – BKS Iyengar in “Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali”

Yoga is an 8-limbed process that begins with The Yamas : non-violence, truth, non-stealing, moderation, and non-greed. These moral precepts are to be practiced, as stated above, no matter where you are, what year it is (even in this crazy year of 2020!!!), and what your standing in society is! And as I mentioned in the last blog on this topic, BKS Iyengar also reminds us that the Yamas are not only just a foundational aspect of yoga, but a key player in our success or failure in all of the other limbs of practice. There really is no limb separate from another in a holistic practice of yoga, so the Yamas require much introspection and discrimination in regards to our physical and mental practices of posture or meditation. To say we practice posture or meditation without a foundation of moral introspection means we are already missing out.

And, if we go back to a previous Yoga Sutra, this discrimination and wisdom we seek from yoga must “cover the totality of one’s being” (Rohit Mehta translation on II.27). We cannot stop at the overt and external, but delve deeper into the more subtle forms of these precepts, delve deeper into the possibly more uncomfortable spaces of our intentions, thoughts, and feelings.

So here are some contemplations for our next meeting on December 27th, but also maybe for your progress into the New Year….


  • what are the subtle forms of violence that you may experience?
  • if you do not have outward violent tendencies, what are some inward ways you may be violent?
  • has yoga shown you or taught you ways to counteract violent thoughts, actions, or attitudes?


  • does your inner “self” reflect the “self” you portray to others?
  • what are some uncomfortable truths that you have uncovered for yourself?
  • are you able to question or investigate hard truths that you hold dear?


  • where do you give credit for actions or thoughts?
  • what acquisitive attitudes do you hold – positive or negative?
  • what are some subtle ways you cheat yourself out of experience or knowledge?


  • how do you find or practice moderation in thought, word, and deed?
  • can you acknowledge wasted energy on other people or endeavors? how does that feel?
  • what is on your “need” list as opposed to your “have” list? what do you hold onto unnecessarily?


  • to what degree do you compare yourself to others? how does that mold your thoughts or behaviors?
  • where are you rigid in thought, word, or deed? unable to let go?
  • what do you accumulate and why?

When we start to ask the deeper questions, we can then start the process of real understanding and transformation of knowledge into wisdom. The two specific Yoga Sutras we will be covering in discussion on Dec 27th (II.33 and II.34) remind us that when we face doubt or we want to avoid the negative aspects of ourself, we have to carry on with introspection and discrimination. Life is full of the beautiful combination of positives and negatives, but it is our job to find a balance within ourself, encourage a movement toward growth and clarity.

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Jennie Williford CIYT

Jennie Williford (CIYT Level 3) is a transplant to LaCrosse via Montana, Illinois, and originally Texas. Throughout her life moves and 5 trips to India, Jennie has acquired a well-rounded and multi-faceted approach to Iyengar Yoga since her start in 1998. Jennie loves the experimental and explorative nature of yoga in accessing deeper knowledge of the Self on every level. The practice of yoga can be intense and introspective, however as practitioners we can be light-hearted and open-minded in our discipline. Jennie is intrigued by the philosophy of yoga and hopes to share this depth of subject while teaching the physical and mental benefits that come from the practice of posture.