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The Eight Limbs of Yoga: Yamas & Ahimsa

The practice of yoga asana, or the physical practice of yoga, is only one aspect in leading a yogic life. An individual truly begins practicing and living yogicly when one's entire lifestyle is committed to raising his or her own consciousness. That means that all actions, thoughts, and principles align with the cultivation of steadiness of mind and peaceful relationships with all other beings.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali outlines the path of yoga for us. explaining that the path to a yogic life is eightfold. Over the next few months, I'll be posting brief explanations of each of these limbs in hopes that you follow along.

The first limb of yoga is the yamas,the moral code of the yogis. These are the ethical guidelines which, when practiced with dedication, help us live a fulfilled, selfless, and purposeful life in society. There are five yamas, or moral codes, and over the next several weeks, we'll cover them all.

"An individual truly begins practicing and living yogicly when one's entire lifestyle is committed to raising his or her own consciousness."

Ahimsa, the first Yama.

"It takes two hands to clap and make a sound. With just one hand, no sound is made. So, if you do not react when someone has a conflict with you, then the conflict will end-- no clap, no noise." Sharath Jois.

Ahimsa is most commonly translated as nonviolence. As a yogi, the practice of ahimsa is to be gentle in our thoughts and behaviors to the world around and within us. By becoming established in peace and compassion, we don't submit ourselves to undo conflict. In fact, we deflate it. We diminish the noise by keeping our hand down.

I personally like to think of it as nectar and poison. Our actions create a ripple effect unto ourselves and others around us, and they either brew more poison into the world, or create more nectar. Ahimsa is the act of creating nectar. This should be our number one yoga practice, on and off the mat: practicing no poison, no conflict, no violence in our thoughts, words, or actions. Instead, we brew nectar.

"This should be our number one yoga practice, on and off the mat: practicing no poison, no conflict, no violence in our thoughts, words, or actions. Instead, we brew nectar."

The Ahimsa Project.

Peace begins on the inside. Through yoga, we bring light to our inner world so that we can leave places a little brighter than when we first arrived. Take 10-20 minutes every morning this week to sit and breathe, setting the intention of ahimsa-- loving kindness, gentleness-- within yourself. As you go about your day, keep ahimsa at the forefront of your mind in all you do. Socialize with compassion, kindness, and grace. This could take form as non-judgement, disengaging in gossip, speaking highly of others, smiling at strangers, etc.

Be kind to yourself. When you catch your mind brewing poison, pause. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, forgive yourself and begin again.

Happy practicing!

For love, with love.

-E

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