Often people think yoga is about making shapes with your body but it actually goes much deeper than that and becomes a way to practice in everyday life.
There are 8 limbs of yoga
- Yama ~ Moral code (how to behave in society) – which include ahimsa (non-violence or non-harming), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), bramacharya (sexual restraint), and aparigraha (non-possessiveness).
- Niyama ~ The personal behaviours – which include saucha (purity), santosha (contentment), tapas (discipline or austerity), svadhyaya (spiritual studies), and Ishvara Pranidhana (constant devotion to God).
- Asana ~ Physical postures, which we are familiar with but the postures were designed to allow the body to sit with ease in meditation.
- Pranayama ~ Breathing techniques to control the energy, prana, life force within the body.
- Pratyahara ~ withdrawal of the senses
- Dharana ~ Intense focus, concentration
- Dhyana ~ The practice of meditation
- Samadhi ~ Bliss, Joy, Peace
I want to explain more about the Yamas and Niyamas, to help you bring these into your daily lives.
The first Yama is Ahimsa, Non-violence.
“Ahimsa is the highest duty. Even is we cannot practice it in full, we must try to understand its spirit and refrain as far is humanly possible from violence.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Ahimsa is about abstaining from violence in all aspects of life from physical to mental and emotional. Non-Violence is a out showing compassion and love. Killing and doing physical harm are grosser forms of violence that are easily seen and understood. “When we feel hurried, afraid, powerless, out of balance and harsh with ourselves speaking words of kindness or even exploding in a violent outburst. Our ability to non violent towards others directly relate to the ability to non violent within ourselves.
Ahimsa or nonviolence, literally to do no harm calls forth from us our most brilliant and best self. Our capacity to be nonviolent depends on our proactive practice of courage, balance, love of self and compassion for others.” – Deborah Adele
When I first started exploring Ahimsa, I thought to myself I already practice this, I’m not a violence person but it also includes our thoughts, our responses and reactions and forgiving others. Not just to other people but also to yourself. Yoga begins with awareness, and that awareness has to start with ourselves.
Do you expect too much of yourself? Say negative things to yourself? Are you quick to react and blame others?
Violence can manifest in words, actions and inner thoughts. The other practices of yoga, postures, meditation and breathing can all work together to change the energy the prana in the body and when we step off our mat we take this into our daily lives.
For example some people choose to not eat meat in their diet. Any events that happen in your life when you might typically react in a negative way can you replace those with feelings of understanding, compassion and love. In your yoga practice can you move without force.
Paying attention to the mind and thoughts is practicing ahimsa, are there hints of violence against yourself or others? Observing your thoughts and being away of what is coming into the mind. Constantly having negative thoughts can trigger our fight or flight response and increase cortisol (the stress hormone) into your bodies. This can lead to lowered immune system, physical pain and sickness. Think of the term, worried sick. “Worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere” English Proverb. Worrying will never change the outcome.
We have have times in our life that are difficult, and we have natural emotions of pain, hatred, and violence but not acting upon those emotions, practice this each and every day. Release negative thoughts about yourself and others around your. Ahimsa – Non Violence creates peace, love, kindness, self-love, compassion, self-acceptance. Which comes from the heart.
If you are someone who likes to Journal, get your notebook, make a cup of tea, sit aside 10 minutes or so and ask yourself the following questions;
What does balance feel like to you, don’t think about it in your head, feel it in your body, notice sensations, energy levels, do you need more sleep, exercise, do you need to eat differently, work less? Notice the effects in your life and of those around you.
How do you or could you practice ahimsa through your thoughts, your words, your actions.