To Harm, or Not To Harm, That Is The Question

"Whatever you are doing, love yourself for doing it. Whatever you are feeling, love yourself for feeling it."  – Thaddeus Golas

"Whatever you are doing, love yourself for doing it. Whatever you are feeling, love yourself for feeling it."  – Thaddeus Golas

Ahimsa, you are by far one of the hardest Yamas to practice and probably the most important one to get.

Oh, how far I've come.  Let me just explain a little how ahimsa relates to yoga and where I'm going with all this.  In yoga training we were taught the eight limb path also known as Ashtanga and these eight steps are there to guide you on living a life of purpose and meaning.  I teach yoga at a gym and you would think that the students are mainly there to stretch; nope, a good majority of them have told me that they love the philosophy I've introduced them to.  I love it too!  So, we started last night with Ahimsa and now every week we will go over another Yama leading us to the Niyamas...then the rest of the six steps.  

The yamas and the niyamas are ethical guidelines, much like the ten commandments of yoga.  I do have a previous post on all the Yamas and Niyamas if your interested in looking at them as a whole, right now we are going to focus on one.  
Just to put everything in context, here are the eight limbs-  

  1. Yamas-  (Ethical disciplines)
                    Ahimsa- non-harm
                    Satya- Truthfulness
                    Asteya- non-stealing
                    Brahmacharya-  moderation
                    Aparigraha- non-possesiveness
  2. Niyama- (Rules of conduct)
                    Saucha- purity
                    Santosha- contentment
                    Tapas- self discipline
                    Svadhyaya- self study      
                    Ishvara pranidhana- surrender to God's will
  3. Asana-  Posture
  4. Pranayama-  Breath control
  5. Pratyahara-  sense withdrawal
  6. Dharana-  Concentration
  7. Dhyana-  Meditation
  8. Samadhi-  Superior conscience/state of ecstasy

Ahimsa (non-harm) is about practicing non-violence in your thoughts, your words and your deeds... not only towards yourself, but all living creatures.  I try my best to start class with this reminder, do no harm to yourself, listen to your body and back off when you feel pain. 

Try for a day or maybe a week, to take the time to be mindful of how you are treating yourself and others.  Showing compassion for exactly who you are, the good and the bad.  I personally believe the most important first step is with your thoughts and how you feel about yourself.  It all starts there.  Try to catch yourself when you are being self-critical, judgmental, and just going straight to the negative talk.  Witness it; honor those thoughts; don't believe them; send yourself love, and just let that negativity go.  Deep breaths help.  Also thoughts of anger, jealousy, resentment towards others have a profound affect on our being.  All these negative thoughts to ourselves and others only cause a storm of chemicals in our body that only end up hurting us.  So practice compassion.

Once you've practiced some self-love and deep observation, then you might want to move onto how you talk to others and what energy is behind your deeds.  People feel energy from you; like when you are doing something nice for them, but are doing it with an attitude... they can feel that. Be aware of your energy.
The devout yogi's practice abstaining from any animal products.  Notice how you feel with the absence of meat in your diet and you never know - you might just love it.  I've been practicing yoga for many years and I'd love to say I'm a full-blown vegetarian, but I'm not.  I do go most days and weeks without meat consumption, and then maybe a few days out of the month I eat some turkey or chicken.   Listen to your body and when the time is right (if it ever is), that need to eat meat will just fall away, with very little struggle.  I'm just not there completely yet.  I'm practicing ahimsa, but not beating myself up over it. 

Bottom line is:  Love every part of your being and that love will then spread out all around you, then be reflected back to you.  It has a great rippling effect.  

Be kind to yourself
Bow Pose

Bow Pose

Bow pose is a great asana to practice with ahimsa in mind.  It's a heart opener dealing with the fourth chakra, which is all about an open heart, unconditional love, compassion, forgiveness, and leading life fearlessly.  

Ahimsa is an attribute of the brave. Cowardice and ahimsa don’t go together any more than water and fire.
— Gandhi