Did you know that at its root yoga is a practice more concerned with the flexibility, strength, and resilience of the mind and consciousness, than that of the body? Classical yoga is an eight limb path of which asana, or postures, is just one limb. In fact, asana is the third of the eight limbs. When we view yoga through the lens of the eight fold path it becomes a guiding philosophy that helps us make our way through the world more at peace with ourselves and those around us.
The first two limbs are the yamas (restraints) and the niyamas (observances). The yamas and niyamas are often described as yoga’s moral or ethical code, but they are not as much about strict right and wrong as they are behaviors and attitudes that lead us away from suffering and toward contentment. Yoga teacher and author Donna Farhi, describes them as ten qualities of goodness. Farhi states, “When we are centered within our true nature, these qualities shine forth.”
This month at Breathe we will be focusing on the first yama, ahimsa. As we explore the practice of ahimsa remember that the aim of yoga is to return to a state of wholeness in body, mind, and spirit. When we feel whole the barriers of separation dissolve and we can feel our connection to each other and all things. Ahimsa (non-harming), is a natural extension of connectedness. It is not merely a passive state of refraining from causing harm, but the active integration of compassion into our daily lives. An integrated practice of ahimsa asks us to shine the light of our awareness on our daily interactions with ourselves, our family, friends, colleagues, and strangers; the way we earn a living and how we spend our money; the kind of food we eat; our relationship with the environment; how we treat animals and other species; and how we view politics, business and education. This level of attentiveness requires courage and skill and will continually remind us that the inner work of self compassion is intrinsic to any outward expression.
We invite you to join us in bringing more awareness to the practice of non-harming this month (and beyond). Here are a few ways to get started:
- Pay attention to your thoughts. Our minds are incredibly powerful. The thoughts we have today create seeds for future action. If we nurture harmful and negative seeds they have the potential to grow into harmful action. Be softer with yourself. Let your self talk be kind and compassionate. Remember that you are whole just as you are. Notice what happens outwardly as you shift your inner landscape to a more peaceful place.
- Honor your body. Treat your body as the gift that it is by taking good care of it. Our bodies are made of the food that we eat. One of the best ways to honor our bodies it to eat a healthy and nourishing diet. How might you extend the practice of ahimsa to your eating habits? Eat slowly in a relaxed environment with little distraction. Understand what’s on your plate and how it got there. How can the food you eat cause the least amount of harm? Maybe now is a good time to explore eating plant based meals one day a week. Think of it as an extension of this practice and see how it makes you feel. If you’d like to try some plant based meals check out one of our favorite vegan blogs http://www.minimalistbaker.com
- Practice what you truly need. This ties into the first and the second suggestion. How often do you push your body too far in your practice? Do you know and honor your physical limitations? As you unroll your mat set the intention to truly do what your body is asking for. By listening you may find that what you need is child’s pose instead of another downward dog, or perhaps you feel sluggish and need more movement. As you move through your practice ask yourself what would be the most compassionate choice.
For continued reading on the yamas and niyamas we recommend Deborah Adele http://deborahadele.com
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.” Let this month be an exploration of the principle of love. We are here with you.