Ahimsa Do • No • Harm . Our focus for the month of February. . No matter how many years we’ve been practicing this, there are always more layers to unfold and discover. In relation to self and to others. . Yama, is the first limb in the 8 steps system Patanjali outlines in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and often translates as observances, practices to embody with the world. So while Ahimsa means Do No Harm to others, it is linked directly to self love and acceptance. All spiritual teaching reminds us we can never fully love another when we do not accept ourselves as we truly are. Do No Harm does not refer to physical harm only. While this is an extremely important part, and we hope we do not find ourselves involved in a physical fight of some sort, the more challenging practice is to embody no harm or compassion in mind, heart and speech. When you look in the mirror- what is it you tell yourselves? What thoughts are running through your mind? Is there judgement about weight, skin color, aging, etc...? Or is there a " hello beautiful, how wonderful to see you again" ? hmm.... If more of us would use the 2nd option, the cosmetics industry would not be striving as well as it does, and mental wellness would be on the rise. But facts are that the cosmetic industry is one of the leading industries these days. I heard Brene Brown saying in one of talks that research shows that if all people stopped using cosmetics for one week only )ONE WEEK ONLY!!!!), The economy of the USA and Canada would collapse.... That is a disturbing fact and one that emphasizes the lack of self love, compassion and empathy that exist in modern culture and society. While we do not engage in physical battles in daily life, we definitely engage in mental and emotional battles, with ourselves and with the world. We focus on that which separates cultures and religions, on politics, and belief systems, rather than find that which unites us. We often speak unkindly to each other. To those we love and those we don't. To our kids and our parents. To our youngest and eldest. I myself do this too often, always disappointed that this habit has ot yet left my system fully, but making sure I do not turn this to self beating which represents another form of Violence. So you can see how complex this practice truly is.
For most of us it is a lifelong practice. To notice when old habitual patterns of judgement and separation enter our life, and with kindness and forgiveness exhale, and consider how we can move closer to love, as a leading principle in life.
This is not to say, in any way whatsoever that we allow abusive behaviour to persist in the name of Ahimsa. I feel this is an extremely important element to understand, and the sooner the better.
Discernment and boundaries are an important part of Ahimsa. Self love and self respect as a mirror to loving and respecting others.
Suggestions to incorporate Ahimsa ON the mat:
Respect your body with its " limitations". Do not push into areas of pain, to avoid unnecessary injuries.
Prioritise the breath. When you compromise your breath for the sake of the pose, you are acting violently and prevent the bodymindspirit from the one thing it needs most.
Notice your thoughts as you move through the practice. Start noticing violent thoughts and language towards self: I am not good enough, I sukc, my body is weak
Notice your thoughts towards others in the room as you move through the practice.
Leave competitiveness outside the room. Easier said than done. So when you notice your mind competing and comparing, smile and exhale, and draw your attention back to your breath.
Arrive early enough to be well prepared for the class.
Start each practice with setting an intention.
Suggestions to incorporate Ahimsa OFF the mat:
Start each day with an intention.
Practice loving kindness meditation
Become more Environmentally aware and responsible in your everyday life
Adopt a day a week of Vegan diet. If you already have 1 day a week then slowly increase.
Consume consciously, ethically and LESS.....
Avoid purchasing animal products (Food, fashion, and other areas of life).
And remember, one step at a time.
These habits and patterns are so embedded in us that it takes time, repetition, and patience to embody them on a deeper level.
As Maya Angelou says:
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”