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Yama in Yoga Explained

In the Yogic notion, Yama literally means "Control or Restrain". Based on the commentary on Yoga, the Patanjali Sage explained in his famous book "Yoga Sutra" that "Atha Yoganusasanam - अथ योगानुशासनम्" which is a very famous quote and the first quote in his book. The meaning of Atha Yoganusasanam - अथ योगानुशासनम् is “now the discipline of yoga”. The sage said that we must start the yoga journey with Discipline.

The main efficacy of Sage Patanjali was indicating something that should be stopped completely. The bad habits, Pravritti, Kriya or Karma that affect your life should be totally stopped now. For example, if you go on day 1 in a GYM, and the trainer sees that you have wounds on your hands, he will order you to do a treatment with a doctor first and then join the GYM. He will never ask for lifting the weight for muscles before recovering from the current wounds. Same in Yoga Sutra, the sage Patanjali is advising to STOP the things that can be a problem in your yogic journey.


यम, नियम, आसन, प्राणायाम, प्रत्याहार, धारणा, ध्यान और समाधि; ये आठ योग के अंग हैं ।
In the shloka (Verse) 2.29, Patanjali said that there is an eight-fold path leading to liberation, known as the ‘Ashtanga Yoga System’ or ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga’ (the word ‘ashta’ means ‘eight’ and ‘anga’ means ‘limb’ or "Part").
The 8 limbs are as follows:

Yama (the first limb) among 8 limbs of Yoga

  • Yama - यम (Restraint or Control)
  • Niyama - नियम (Duty or rules)
  • Asana - आसन (Physical Postures)
  • Pranayama - प्राणायाम (Control of breath)
  • Pratyahara - प्रत्याहार (Conscious withdrawal of senses)
  • Dharana - धारणा (Attention)
  • Dhyana - ध्यान (Meditation)
  • Samadhi - समाधि (Enlightenment or awakening)

Now, look at the beautiful photo above, this picture is the Natraj Dance of Shiva which is a perfect example of Yama. Shiva in the Natraj dance controls all his dance moves perfectly and yet not imbalanced. Yama is not about "not doing Karma (action)", it's about complete and disciplined control of yourself.

In this blog post, we will understand the aspects of Yama according to the ancient Indian Study.

All Information about Yama

Image reference for Yama in Various Concepts

Yama as Yamraj

According to Hindu Concepts and Rigveda Deities, Yamraj is called the deity of Death and Justice. As you already know, Patanjali used the word Yama as "stop" or "Control", Yama word is taken from Rigveda because Yamraj is one who stops our life as death. We are here on earth not to enjoy but for a mission. If we would be here just for enjoyment, God could offer us paradise for that but unfortunately, we have forgotten our main mission and objective.

Yamraj waits for the right time according to the justice of Karma and takes away the Panch Prana (5 Prana) step by step which is the process of death.
If you do not know about Karma Concept, please read this blog for understanding the rules of Karma:
Click to read: What is Karma? - Blog
Yamraj is the son of God Surya (the sun). Same to Sun, Mars, and Saturn, Yamraj is also a destroyer. According to the Vedas, Yama is the first mortal who died. Although Shiva comes first as AdiYogi (The first Yogi) but Shiva is immortal that's why Yamraj showed the demonstration fo death to the creator Lord Brahma.

Yama as Control (5 types of Yama)

Yama is not an automatic stoppage. If you are in a yogic practice, doing some amazing daily schedule, it will not stop any kind of Vritti or habits until you take an oath or Vow. Yama is a serious matter and a very hard step of Yoga. It's like if you have to wake up at 4 am and go to the roof, the very first step is very hard to do. All the illusions (Maya) will stop you to do such a great work of early morning wake up and force you to sleep more. After the first step. it is not as hard as other steps.

Yama has 5 steps to follow:

  • Ahinsa (non-violence)
  • Satya (truthfulness)
  • Asteya (non-stealing)
  • Brahmacharya (Balance of the energy)
  • Aparigraha (non-greed)
Yama is the result of 'No excuses".

Yama as Dharmapala

The word Dharma means Responsibility or Justice and Pala means who nourishes or take responsibility. Yama is called Dharmapala because when the human finishes all the duties on earth, it is justified to stop his life. Even if, the human is doing great karma, Dharmapala may give him death to stop his good karma also, because good karma is storage that will make a destiny. While enjoying the good karma as destiny, the human may do mistakes again as bad Karma.
Click to read: What is Karma? - Blog

Yama as Yamloka

Yamlok simply means the place of Yama. Yamaloka is the first destination after death. Yamaloka is the place where an accountant is having all the tally of your good karma and bad karma and shows it after death to the dead person.

Yama as Devas in Buddhism

In Buddhist Cosmology, there are Devas as Gods and Asuras as demons.

Buddhism has Major Devas as follows:

  • Brahma: the supreme deva, who requested Buddha to teach
  • Indra: a major deva
  • Prajña: goddess of knowledge. Buddha’s mother was considered an incarnation.
  • Mara: a deva associated with death and hindrances to enlightenment. It was Mara who tempted Buddha under the bodhi tree.
  • Yama: the king of the 21 hells (see image above).
  • Nagas: great serpents (or dragons, or water creatures). The king of the Nagas protected Buddha from a storm.
  • Gandharvas: angelic beings who provide the gods with music

Click to read: Buddhist Cosmology by Dr. C. George Boeree, Shippensburg University

Yama as Muhurta Kaal (Period of Time)

The word Muhurta Means "Division of Time". Every day we have some auspicious times and unfortunate or Inauspicious times also.

There are 30 Muhurta (period/divisions of time) as follows:

  • Rudra (रुद्र)
  • Aahi (आहि)
  • Mitr (मित्र)
  • Pitr (पितॄ)
  • Vasu (वसु)
  • Varah (वाराह)
  • Vishwedeva (विश्वेदेवा)
  • Vidhi (विधि)
  • Satmukhi (सतमुखी)
  • Puruhut (पुरुहूत)
  • Vahini (वाहिनी)
  • Naknkara (नक्तनकरा)
  • Varuna (वरुण)
  • Aryaman (अर्यमन्)
  • Aryaman (भग)
  • Girish (गिरीश)
  • Ajpad (अजपाद)
  • Ahir Badhnya (अहिर्बुध्न्य)
  • Pushya (पुष्य)
  • Ashvini (अश्विनी)
  • Yama (यम)
  • Agni (अग्नि)
  • Vidhātṛ (विधातृ)
  • Kaṇḍa (क्ण्ड)
  • Aditi (अदिति)
  • Jīva/Amṛta (जीव/अमृत)
  • Viṣṇu (विष्णु)
  • Dyumadgadyuti (द्युमद्गद्युति)
  • Brahma (ब्रह्म)
  • Samudra (समुद्र)

Yama as Planet Pluto

Pluto is also called Yama in ancient Indian stories. When Pluto or Yama enters the chart of Vedic Astrology of someone, it is considered as death. Pluto does not interfere with the Navagraha's Roles but when it appears in the Kundali (Birth Chart), the person may die in that time period.

9 Vedic Planets (Navagraha) are as follows:

  • Sun (Surya)
  • Moon (Chandra)
  • Mars (Mangala)
  • Mercury (Budha)
  • Jupiter (Brihaspati)
  • Venus (Shukra)
  • Saturn (Shani)
  • Rahu (north node of the moon)
  • Ketu (south node of the moon)

Click to read: About Navagraha