Monday, December 22, 2014

Yamas: Ahimsa

Yoga isn't about the cute clothes and the "Ooooh, look at me, I can do a handstand!" pictures and show-off moments.  It's the union between body, mind, and spirit, and by using both breath and body, those who practice yoga are able to not only foster awareness of their bodies but also foster awareness of our connection to everything.  To everyone.

In my first Intro to Yoga course, I was given a great handout that outlines the eight limbs of yoga and, as I'm trying to grasp a better understanding of this practice, I've become fascinated in reading this handout, specifically the first limb: Yamas, or universal morality.

These yamas are broken down into five "wise characteristics" and rather than existing as a list of "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not", they tell us that our fundamental nature is to be compassionate, generous, honest, and peaceful.  Essentially, they tell us to just be a good person.  I'm going to tackle them all and make them my focus for the coming year, 2015: The Year of Me, as I'm calling it, but I'm most fascinated by the first yama of ahimsa.

Ahimsa, or compassion for all living things, literally means to not injure or show cruelty to any creature or any person in any way whatsoever.  But more than just anti-violence, as adapted in yoga, it means kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things.  It also has to do with our duties and responsibilities, and ahimsa implies that in every situation we should adopt a considerate attitude and do no harm.  Essentially, again, it tells us to just be a good person.

We all obviously struggle with this since we're selfishly flawed humans, but I find it such a frustration to see people so completely dedicated to the practice of yoga treat others with such dishonesty, cruelty, and thoughtless actions.  Perhaps that complete dedication they emit really is only the superficial look at my cute yoga clothes in my cool handstand pictures.  And perhaps my own struggle will be to treat those people with the kindness and "ahimsa" I wish they could embody.

Sigh.  I can do that.  I can let go.  I have to let go.  I want to.  It's time to embrace ahimsa and show compassion in both action and thought.


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