Happy Friday to you all!
I posted an article a while ago that briefly touched on what a 'yoga lifestyle' is and what it means. In that article I mentioned the 8 limbs of yoga and the yamas, which are the first limb.
I want to delve a little deeper into the yamas over the next while, and am starting with the first yama - Ahimsa.
First things first - what is a yama? The yamas are sometimes referred to as the "five restraints" because they describe what we should avoid to lead a fully spiritual life. Following the yamas help us cultivate a sense of peace by transforming the negativity in our lives and it is this peace that helps us to advance on a spiritual path.
So, now we know what a yama is. But Lesley, I hear you ask, what is Ahimsa? In Sanskrit, the language of yoga, a prefix of 'A' means "not". Himsa means harming, injuring, committing violence. So Ahimsa means "not doing harm". It is the practice of non-violence.
If we take this on a very high level, it seems easy - I'll not kill anyone or hit anyone. I'll not kick puppies or squash that spider in the kitchen. What could be easier? Unfortunately this is only a very small part of Ahimsa. Yes it does mean non-violence, but not just physical violence. It means emotional violence also. By this I mean not saying hurtful things to others, not doing something I know would hurt someone's feelings, not causing them emotional pain.
There are times, obviously, that we cause people harm without realising. This is part of being human. If this happens, following Ahimsa, we should of course apologise and try not to do it again.
So, apart from not hurting people physically or emotionally, what else does Ahimsa mean to me? I take non-harm further to cover animals also. I don't eat meat, I don't buy products tested on animals, I don't wear leather, I buy vegan products if I can. I also extend it not harming the environment as much as possible. I recycle, try to buy things without plastic packaging, plant flowers in my garden that bees like, and so on. I'll not bore you with the details!
The hardest part of Ahimsa, for me anyway, is non-violence to myself. This includes not eating (too much!) junk food, exercising to keep healthy, taking care of our physical body and needs. It also includes not being emotionally mean to ourselves, which is the bit I can struggle with. We shouldn't think things about ourselves that cause us emotional harm, such as looking in the mirror poking faults in our looks, or calling ourselves stupid.
Now saying all that...we are all human and far from perfect. We are all a work in progress and we all stumble along the way. We don't have to succeed at all aspects of Ahimsa all the time, the important factor here is that we try and we do our best.
You might also find that you want to Ahimsa further than I do, or not as far. Again, we are all human and that makes us individuals!
I definitely struggle more with Ahimsa towards self, other people find it might the non-harm towards others - for example struggling to give up meat or gossiping about work colleagues.
What aspects of Ahimsa do you struggle with, or if this is a completely new concept for you, what do you think might be the hardest? Is it even something you want to follow at all?
I'm looking forward to hearing your opinions on the article, and I'll be covering more of the yamas in the next few!
I'm a yoga fanatic who been practising yoga for 22 years and teaching for almost 4. I'm quite spiritual, a bit of a hippy to be honest, and love discussing theoretical aspects of yoga as well as the practical elements. You'll find articles on how yoga benefits my life on both a physical, mental and emotional level, as well as how it can help you - as well as some non-yoga related articles just to keep you on your toes!