The 5 Yamas of Yoga: Ahimsa “Do No Harm”

Yoga is something that became quite popular in the past few years. It’s  fascinating to see how many people managed to transform their lives by simply practicing the asanas every day, trying out meditation techniques and spending time on becoming more aware emotionally. The reason why Yoga seems to attract so many of us is simple: it’s a lifestyle that can be easily shaped to our modern lives but it also offers the direct opposite of the madness we tend to drift into as carreer, financial insecurity, personal crisis pushes us on the edge. For all these reasons, we’re eagerly looking for shelter from our fears, sadness and chaos. Whenever I think about how yoga effects my life, I picture an empty room that’s all white with only a pillow in the middle of it. Where there’s peace and where there’s only me. Where fears, uncertainty and nervousness are unable to enter and where I can finally think constructively without being paralyzed by useless emotions. The fact that this room only exists in our head is actually good news because it means that we’re completely capable of entering it whenever we want to or need to. We just have to unlock the door and althoough, it is a difficult thing to do, if we practice Yoga through the Asanas and also by mastering the theoretical wisdom, we should be free to click the lock open in a blink of an eye.

The 5 Yamas form the base of a gentle, smoothly flowing life that we all crave for. Remember that these admonitions are not necessarily here to be brought to perfection. It’d be a beautiful thing but let’s face it: it’s almost impossible to live in complete accord with these precepts. Trying  and taking steps to perfect them on the other hand is the real deal because at the end of it all the path is that matters the most and the things you learn throughout it. I decided to dedicate one post to each yama because all five simply can’t be discussed in one entry.

When I looked up the foreign word “Ahimsa” this definition popped up and I think it sums up the point beautifully:  “The practice of non-violence which includes physical, mental, and emotional violence towards others and self. We create violence most often in our reactions to others, to events, habitually creating judgement, criticism, anger, irritation.” 

Let’s pull this apart a bit. “We create violence most often in our reactions.” How many times does it happen that although our intetnions are completely harmless, we still manage to hurt someone with our words or actions. It’s partly because we don’t think our words through before they leave our mouths and partly because we have an ego that usually supports our wrongdoings and blurres our vision from seeing what we’ve done or what we’re about to do. Something like this happened to me just this morning. I tend to fall into the habbit of sounding rude and pretentious when I really want to get something done. I don’t want to offend anyone by any means but it still happens because I have this strong conviction that it’s the only way to complete a particular task. So when I’m being pulled up by the person I used the wrong tone with I don’t know what happened, I don’t see why I should feel bad but I still feel that way because I never wanted to hurt anyone. Sounds familiar? Believe me, I know how frustrating it is…but the upside is that we can always improve and leave bad habits behind. The key is to remember to think, to slow down when we least feel like slowing down to quickly check on our mindset before unintentionally snapping at someone. It’s hard because it feels like we don’t have time for anything but it’s a good way to become more aware of our thoughts and feelings. As long as our intentions aren’t offensive we’re good, we can work from there. Doing it on purpose, though is another question and there’s no excuse for that.

The other noteworthy part of this yama is “habitually creating judgement, criticism, anger, irritation.” Habitually means that it’s becoming normal. There can be hundreds of reasons why we end up judging and criticising others but the outcome is always the same. Somebody gets hit across the face by our harsh or in some cases sneaky comments. This doesn’t mean that we can’t express our opinions. It just warns us to be more delicate and that being impudent won’t give our words more momemntum. It also teaches us to give ourselves more time to experience a certain thing before forming a strong notion.I was having a conversation the other night with one of my very good friends who happens to be a gifted photographer. She really knows her place in the world, she never brags about her work, success and talent but she still knows that she’s good at it and that gives her a certain rush of confidence that makes people feel drawn to her. The field she’s working on is very competitive and she definitely had unpleasant conversations that made her feel defeated but she never felt like talking back and using the same ill-mannerd tone. It takes a lot of strengtht to behave this way but normally we don’t want other people to feel bad because of us and that’s enough motivation to rather leave it and walk away. So essencially it comes down to one thing: spending more time to think and to use a pure and gentle heart along with an open mind before speaking up and thinking that we’re the center of the Universe. (which we are not 😀 )

We can’t protect everything and everyone around us. Wehere people live, things get hurt but we can always try harder.

Love,

 

Fatima

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