April 29, 2013

Yoga & Ahimsa Non-Harming

In religion you go to church to help find your connection to God but also to be reminded of the importance of taking care of moral and ethical values.

In yoga and other spiritual practices, it is no different.
At the very foundation level of the ‘yoga pyramid’ are the yamas and niyamas; a set of moral disciplines that give us guidelines for ethical living. These are much like the morals upheld in religious practices….such as the 10 Commandments.
The ‘Yamas’ include practices of non-harming, truthfulness, non-stealing, greedlessness and directing our energy to the higher good.

 These qualities do not magically manifest in you when you do yoga!  You have to make a conscious decision to try and achieve these qualities.

, or non-harming, is the first of the yamas (restraints).
There are obvious non-harming aspects like not killing or physically hurting any living beings but there are other less obvious ways that non-harming can be employed.
Here are a few:

  • Not using words that are hurtful or aggressive.
    How does it feel when someone speaks harshly to you?  Whether it was your parent, your child, your boss or your co-worker who spoke hurtful words to you; is it time to discontinue the cycle?
  • Not committing actions that can be destructive and cause pain.
    Violence and non-truthfulness could be the source of these actions.
  • Not thinking thoughts, or doing things, that are harmful to ourselves.
    This can include not overworking, not overdoing it in a yoga/fitness class, not putting ourselves down or not staying in an abusive relationship.

Few of us get through life without causing harm, whether by ignoring someone’s feelings, using more of the earth’s resources than we need, or by buying products made by underage and underpaid workers.

How can you bring more Ahimsa into your life?
Not all yoga practice is done on the mat.  Being observant of ourselves and how we are in the world is part of our yoga practice. We have to dig deep, be honest and try to see our true selves….”Know thyself” Ancient Greek aphorism
How does yoga help? First of all, it is important to set an intention to be a better person. The yoga practices will then support this decision. The poses, the breath work and mindfulness help bring calmness and clarity. We can then see more clearly what we need to work on in our lives.

Then, we have to make an effort to change.


*Join me for a free ‘sample’ yoga class on Salt Spring Island (just mention this blog post) or better yet join in one of my yoga retreats on Salt Spring Island BC, in the Tofino area and at new locations in Tulum, Mexico and Tuscany,  Italy!