Our journey on the path to yoga continues this week with the first of the Yama – ahimsa (non-violence).
You might remember that last week we covered the 8 Limb Path of Yoga as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
The first two limbs, the Yama and Niyama, address leading a moral, ethical, self-disciplined and spiritual life (no matter your beliefs, yoga is not a religion) and are broken down even further into 10 guidelines, 5 for the Yama (restraints) and 5 for the Niyama (observances).
Stay with us here, this is the meaty, good stuff and there’s so much more to come.
In an effort to keep this series (somewhat) brief and a quick and informative read, we are going to break ahimsa down a bit further into the basic aspects of non-violence. Cause it’s a biggie.
Ahimsa, in traditional yoga thinking, is so valued that it stands as the foundation of any and all yoga philosophy and practice.
It’s like the yogis are saying if you don’t get this one down, everything else you attempt will be on thin ice.
You might be thinking, at this point, 1. This blog is already too long and/or 2. I am already non-violent, let’s move on.
We are willing to bet no. 2 is not true and not for the reasons you might think. To truly practice ahimsa, the practice of non-violence, you must first be non-violent to yourself. Aha! This is why we are breaking this one down even further.
Violent actions are spotted easily but can you spot the subtle implications of violence when you are both perpetrator and victim? Probably not.
Do you find yourself ever engaging in negative self-talk? When you are in a hurry do you easily snap at loved ones? If you didn’t get enough sleep last night are you grumpy and more likely to eat not-so-good-for-you foods?
Developing awareness around these behaviors, we understand that our ability to be non-violent to others is directly related to our ability to be non-violent within ourselves. If we strive to be the best version of ourselves we can be, we experience peace in our thoughts and peace in our actions.
Ahimsa, literally translated as “no harm”, calls on us to tap into our inner strength and be kind to ourselves first. So much easier said than done, right? It’s the same philosophy as self-care. You cannot pour from an empty cup.
Our capacity to practice ahimsa depends on our proactive practice of courage, balance, love of self, and compassion. We’ll uncover more about how to accomplish being nice to ourselves next week.
In the mean time, try to be kind to you and everyone around you. It’s always possible.