The first Yama: Ahimsa or the path to non-violence

As I mentioned in my previous post, The Yamas – Introduction, there are five yamas. The first one is named Ahimsa which can be translated to non-violence. However, as I will try to convey to you here, it means so much more.

Ahimsa refers to non-violence but also to non-harming as well as compassion for all things and people. In everyday life this can be applied by respecting your body through the food you ingest, by limiting your aggressive and demeaning behavior towards others (and yourself), and/or by having the emotional strength to try and alleviate the suffering of others.

In the Yoga practice, as a teacher it may mean to create a safe place for students to learn and practice, approaching students with compassion and understanding. And then, for students, it may mean respecting your body and its limits, not hurting yourself. Then for some, this principle can be applied to food, whereas vegetarianism stems from this yama, vegetarians choosing not to eat meat as they consider the killing of animals to be a from of violence.

Unfortunately, violence is so commonly accepted as a normal form of interaction in our society that many of us don’t even realise the extent to which it has overtaken us. Our thoughts and our actions towards one and other reflect the toxicity of violence in our lives. It has become so engrained in our behavior that we do not even notice how we are treating each other. Some will say that we have done what was necessary to adapt, but I beg to differ. I think that this violence is slowly killing us, destroying our relationships, turning us into indifferent insensitive beings. But it doesn’t have to be this way…

I have mentioned thoughts, actions and behaviors. This is exactly how violence is triggered: as the thought emerges, the action is taken and then repeated creating and reinforcing this pattern. But as we have explored the subject before, what we practice grows stronger. Not only do we have the choice, we have the ability to completely change our behavior. Granted, it takes time and perseverance to modify such strong patterns, but by restraining ourselves little by little from violent behavior, actions and thoughts, it is possible.

So today, right now, stop and take a good long look at your life. Do not judge yourself only become aware of what is. Start with little changes, notice as thought patterns emerge and mindfully decide to no longer partake in any forms of violence against yourself and others, whether through words, thoughts or actions. This is the first step, the base on which you can build a new life, whatever your past has seen. Forgive. Forget. Love again. Embrace life. Om Shanti.

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