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A yoga teacher’s thoughts on Ahimsa

A yoga teacher’s thoughts on Ahimsa

I think that Ahimsa is the beginning of self respect. The word Ahimsa which comes from the Sanskrit language which translates to nonviolence or perhaps the more relatable word: non harming.

Ahimsa is the first restraint of the yamas and the niyamas. “The yamas and niyamas are yoga’s ethical guidelines laid out in the first two limbs of Patanjali’s eightfold path. They’re like a map written to guide you on your life’s journey. Simply put, the yamas are things not to do, or restraints, while the niyamas are things to do, or observances. Together, they form a moral code of conduct.”

Non harming could be the foundation of peace because how can you possibly attain peace if you are moving through the world destroying or harming things all the time? Basically, Ahimsa is the practice of non harming in thought, word and action. This is the foundation of the yoga practice.

The big intention for me, personally is to be kinder with the thoughts, words and actions I have towards myself. I think that we can be our own worst enemies and the thoughts that we think about ourselves are sometimes worse than anything anyone would ever say to us.  This practice could be a practice of patience, allowing and surrendering to what is.

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And from this relationship, that kindness you have cultivated towards yourself can spread to other people,  animals, and even the environment.

In a world where we are constantly sold the idea that we need to do more, buy more, promote oneself more…  When you really think about it, you can see that the intention behind that message is to convince us to spend more. I think we can easily get lost.  We can easily be led to believe that we are not enough. But the truth is I am enough and You are enough.  And we don’t need to do or be anything more than what we already are.  We are “perfectly imperfect”.  And I think there is something refreshing about being authentic and real. And there’s even a beauty in being vulnerable.

The practice is to let go of those self defeating, self sabotaging thoughts. It is to practice being patient and kind.  It is to step into the power of positive thought, empowerment and abundance.  To move away from  competitiveness and trust that there is enough abundance in this universe to go around.

Each one of us has our own special gifts and unique attributes.

Ahimsa in yoga is to listen to our bodies. If it hurts, then don’t do it. If you need to rest – then please rest.

In this world, it feels like we do all that we can to ignore ourselves and the natural signs our body gives us.  All this perceived value in being go-go-go, hashtag #nosleep.  What do you do when you are tired?  Is the natural knee jerk reaction to reach for coffee or redbull,… caffeine pills even?  I know a yoga teacher who used to down a redbull before teaching her power yoga class. “Don’t tell anyone my secret” she said as she winked at me.  I’m not judging because I know that it is human to have been there at some time or other. But the question I am pointing to is  What kind of message are we sending out there?

And then we wonder why we feel disconnected to our bodies.  We wonder why we freak out, why we snapped at that person, or why we feel burnt out.  It’s because we haven’t been listening and we have been stretching ourselves past our limits.  So Ahimsa is being kind and patient to yourself.  To change those thought patterns, change the record and to exercise more kindness.

When you treat yourself with compassion you can more easily treat others with compassion.  And then that compassion can extend to animals, nature, children, people who are living more difficult circumstances than you.

Ahimsa is the foundation of yoga.  When you treat yourself really well, you cannot longer tolerate being with someone who treats you badly.  Because you know you would be better off on your own. Sometimes that thought alone can help you define your boundaries.  Some people move through the world hurting themselves, hurting others and they don’t even know that they are doing it. When you practice ahimsa, you start to recognize and understand others better so that you can coexist in a more harmonious manner. And that coexistence can mean being amicable from a very far distance.

 

An added benefit when you practice Ahimsa, is that those who have violent tendencies ( aggressive or angry people) might drop them when they are around you.  Notice if this happens.

Are there any are other ways you can bring Ahimsa into your life? If you’d like to explore further, you can try to journal 5 minutes a day just noticing your own thoughts, words and actions and how they pertain to nonviolence.

Henry James