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Ahimsa: Non-harming

May 19, 2009

“We say we want peace but are we willing to live peacefully?”                   –Sharon Gannon

human-peace-sign_maine

human peace sign

Ashtanga yoga is yoga following the 8 limb path, as outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.  The 8 limbs are yama (social discipline), niyama (individual discipline), asana (the physical practice we all think of as yoga), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (sense control), Dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (self-realization).  As you move deeper along the path, you move deeper within yourself and closer to the ultimate feeling of oneness and union that is the goal of yoga.

The yamas essentially dictate how we should act within society and become universal vows of our behavior.  The first yama is ahimsa, which means non-harming and non-violence.  This is the base for all other yoga practices.  It is the foundation for living yoga and the seat from which true enlightenment is born.  The non-harming applies to our thoughts, words, and actions.  It is a way to develop the heart and become a better person for the sake of others and as a disciplined practice of purification.  In the practice of ahimsa, hurtful thoughts, words and actions are eliminated and peace can blossom. Compassion is essential to the practice of ahimsa because it helps us break down the differences we’ve constructed between ourselves and others.  By really  seeing yourself in someone else’s shoes, you begin to understand that we are all the same, all trying to survive and be happy, and the desire to inflict harm is automatically lessened.  

Acting peacefully begets peace in the same way that acting violently only creates more violence.  It is a practice, like all aspects of yoga, and begins with sincere intention.  Next time you are thinking harmful thoughts or going to do something that will cause pain to another, resist the temptation and release the negativity.  Allow peace to rise up in yourself and watch as your life becomes more peaceful.

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