Yamas are ethical rules in the Yogic tradition and can be thought of as moral imperatives. The five yamas listed by Patanjali in Yoga sutra are:
- Ahiṃsa(अहिंसा): Nonviolence, non-harming other living beings through actions and speech
- Satya (सत्य): truthfulness, non-falsehood
- Asteya (अस्तेय): non-stealing
- Brahmacarya (ब्रह्मचर्य): chastity, marital fidelity or sexual restraint
- Aparigraha (अपरिग्रह): Non-greed, non-grasping, non-possessiveness
The commentaries on these teachings of Patanjali state how and why each of the above self restraints help in the personal growth of an individual. For example, in verse II.35, Patanjali states that the virtue of nonviolence and non-injury to others (Ahimsa) leads to the abandonment of enmity, a state that leads the yogi to the perfection of inner and outer amity with everyone, everything.
In Sutra 2.31, Patanjali calls the Yamas Mahavratam, which means a Great Vow. Patanjali states that practice of the Yamas is universal and it should not be limited by class, place, time or circumstances.