Lets talk about Yamas
The first limb of Ashtanga Yoga talks about the Yama. these are one’s ethical standards and sense of integrity, focusing on our behaviour and how we conduct ourselves in life. Yamas are universal practices that relate best to what we know as the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
The five yamas are:
- Ahimsa: nonviolence
- Satya: truthfulness
- Asteya: non-stealing
- Brahmacharya: continence
- Aparigraha: non-covetousness (absence of greed)
The first yama, ahimsa, usually translated as “non-violence,” refers not only to physical violence, but also to the violence of words or thoughts. What we think about ourselves or others can be as powerful as any physical attempt to harm. To practice ahimsa is to be constantly vigilant, to observe ourselves in interaction with others and to notice our thoughts and intentions.
Try practicing ahimsa by observing your thoughts. Do you get annoyed with yourself if you can’t master a head stand, for instance? What is your internal dialogue? Practicing breathing or postures without ahimsa, for example, negates the benefits these practices offer.
What about your thoughts when someone does not behave on the way you expect them to? Your thoughts may be just as damaging to you as physical violence.
However, non-violence does not mean that we can let people walk all over us. Protecting ourselves and others does not violate ahimsa. Practicing ahimsa means we take responsibility for our own harmful behaviour and attempt to stop the harm caused by others. Being neutral is not the point. Practicing true ahimsa springs from the clear intention to act with clarity and love.
This is why it is so important to find some time in our daily life to meditate, to observe our thoughts with detachment and to create the mental and spiritual space to allow the guidance of our intrinsic wisdom to come to the fore. Meditation will stop our habitual train of thoughts and can show us the light at the end of the tunnel.
Even when it seems impossible. Even when you heart is broken. Even if circumstances seem to be unfair. Have faith and sit down in meditation with your thoughts and emotions to give way to your inner guru to talk to you.
This path is one that we have to choose and it is the key to stop suffering.
Let me invite you to take some time this week and write down what Ahimsha might mean to you.