1. Ahimsa or non harming to oneself or others.
It is what it says, literally. Do not harm other living creatures. (One should defend from predators of course!) Firstly, a plant-based diet will support this. However if plant based foods are not available when hunger arrives this can prove to be a dilemma. When hunger arrives humans are known to eat other creatures. Red meat, fish, chickens, turkey, pigs, bison, etc. When hunger arrives food can be just that, food! (Disclosure, I eat red meat, chicken, fish, turkey.) However as I age I find I eat a more plant based diet as it is a good energy source. Secondly, physical, mental, sexual, verbal and emotional harming to other living creatures applies also. Bottom line is simply do not harm oneself or others! And if one finds themselves harming, simply ask yourself why? What is the source of this harm and how does it feed through me? Then change may begin.
2. Satya or truth.
What is truth? The opposite of untruth! So if one tried to live free of untruth a place of truth would appear by default. Truth can have many enemies and many allies. It has forged and destroyed empires. Truth is very powerful. We must also be careful of the truth as it can also cause harming in # 1 above. For example, just because it's the truth does not mean it should be said if it harms. I have lied in my life! I am human! I found that one lie led to another and another until there was a bed of lies. As I aged it was harder to remember the weaving of this bed of lies. It simply takes too much energy! So now I try and not lie and when I am at that crossroads of when a lie is about to be born, I get a lie "ping" and do my best to simply refuse to live in untruths. The history of mankind is riddled with lies. But we have manifested a legal system, imperfect as it is, where we create a reality where untruth is usually not rewarded for the most part in the long run!
3. Asteya or non stealing!
Well that's pretty simple, right? Then there is also the stealing of another's reputation. With the simplest word you could steal someone's reputation from them! Words stole! The Yama Asteya or non stealing says to simply do that. Non steal! It's that easy.
4. Brahmacharya or continence!
Hmm... this is always a tricky one! In my humble opinion sex is a beautiful gift which we should cherish. If one is married, love the spouse your with. If one is in a monogamous relationship, love the one your with. If it is unhealthy consider help! If one is in neither, then many possibilities arise. Not being in intimate relationships can spare one a lot of emotional triggering, however physical needs may go unmet or be overly met! I think one simply has to live and learn. Mistakes will be made and hearts opened and closed and opened again. We grow from it. So opening oneself to love and to give and receive love brings exponential growth. A wonderful musician (Wah) once sang, "love is light in motion." So cherish your light! Cherish your energy!
5. Aparigraha or non-coveting
Don't take what you don't need! Or what is not yours! Or that is falsely acquired through chicanery or other deceptive means.
I have known almost perfect yogis, Yama-wise!
I have also known yogis who fail at every single Yama!
They are harming to themselves and others, verbally, physically, emotionally, financially.
They are untruthful because of their inability to be held accountable for their own injustices.
They steal others reputations and assets and self delude in their own yogi-hood!
They abuse the gift of sex and violate themselves and others lives through this energy.
They acquire things they don't need so they will not feel without!
And then one day they begin to make changes.
We are all simply human beings, miracles each and every one of us. Even though we may be all on the right road we may simply be going the wrong direction! Being on the right road sometimes is not enough! One has to go the right direction also! The Yamas are like the road marker arrow, saying "this way". . .
A foghorn in the fog!
A lighthouse at night!
A candle in the inn!
This way. . .