The Path of Non-Violence
Ahimsa ~ The path of Non-Violence
At the very heart of our yoga practice, so much deeper than just postures on the mat, we find ourselves trying to understand who we are and how to live our lives OFF the mat. If we are to be the change we want to see in this world, then where exactly do we start? Patanjali wrote these guidelines with wisdom at least 1,700 years ago in the Yoga Sutras. In Sanskrit, these are the Yamas or “restraints” and Niyamas or “positive observances.” This week in yoga classes at Pure Synergy, we have been introducing the first of 5 Yamas (or restraints) ~ Ahimsa or non-violence.
Ahimsa is the truest of true compassion and love for yourself and others. When you are practicing yoga on your mat, for instance, you can embrace non-violence for yourself by being kind and mindful of your thoughts, emotions, and body. As well as not pushing yourself to a point of harm in your postures. But also, not judging yourself or thinking poorly of yourself and where you are in your practice or in the moment. This isn't always easy, and that's okay too – because that is part of having compassion. Just like most things, this kindness takes practice, and it's okay if you struggle – being okay with the struggle is part of practicing Ahimsa.
Taking Ahimsa with you off the mat into your daily life may be even more challenging, it's still all about grace, love and kindness. Ahimsa about accepting yourself and others. It is important to understand that even in subtle ways, we have a happier heart and better relationships when we are supporting ourselves with our thoughts and actions instead of tearing ourselves and others down. This does not mean we let others take advantage of us or do not defend ourselves – it simply means that we are actively practicing empathy for ourselves and others. Our ability to feel for each other deeply and lift each other up is what makes us humane.
Instead of experiencing our thoughts, emotions, and actions as if we have no power, we can choose to be nice, positive and caring in all of these ways. The most mindful way to do do this is to live your life with intention. Make the conscious decision to put non-violence into action. If you harm others, you are harming yourself, because it also makes us feel bad to hold this space of bitterness, anger, regret, guilt or hatred. Your thoughts are the seeds that grow into actions and experiences you have in your life. Feed your thoughts with love, not hate.
It can be helpful to consider these three simple questions for practicing Ahimsa when speaking to others:
- Can you stand by your words?
- Are they necessary?
- Can you say them with love?
Ahimsa calls upon us to own up to the choices we make and regain the power that we have always had within ourselves to make positive changes in our lives and all around us. Like ripples in still water, kindness spreads far and wide.
“Before peace between nations, we have to find peace inside that small nation which is our own being.” ~B.K.S. Iyengar