YIOM Blog Week 1 for National Yoga Month: Ahimsa
Did you know that September is National Yoga Month? In celebration, the collective of YIOM bloggers are writing about the 8 limbs of yoga. I’m really excited about this project, because while I am very interested in the holistic practice of yoga, most of what I have the opportunity to share in class is limited to asana (the postures). I’m looking forward to reflecting on my own practice and hearing about my fellow yogis experiences, too.
This week we’re looking at the Yamas (social ethics) and Niyamas (personal ethics).
A few years ago, one of my yoga teachers gave me this great little book called The Secret of the Yamas. The in yogic philosophy, the yamas are: Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (self control), Aparigraha (non-grasping). While there was commentary on all of the yamas, it always came back around to Ahimsa as the primary practice, and all the others organically arose from the practice of compassion towards yourself and others. Even before I started practicing yoga, this sentiment has been important to the way I live my life. I always strive to be gentle and kind to others. I love animals and I want to take good care of them, too.
My general appreciation and commitment towards compassionate living took a fierce turn when six months ago, my dad passed away unexpectedly. Ever since that happened, I have felt like I can never watch any film that portrays violence, even in passing, ever again. It's just too real. I’m acutely aware of violent undertones in silly internet memes, everyday figures of speech, and innocent exaggerations in conversation. It upsets me a lot. I just can't see how glorifying or romanticizing violence in film or other media can do any good to anyone. We are becoming desensitized, not just to violence, but to suffering in general.
I have found that shielding myself to such references has helped to ease my own grief, and by eliminating violent language from my own speech, I might be able to ease the grief and suffering of others. You just never know what other people are going through and aren't telling you.
It’s my hope that people will want to do something positive and life-affirming by eliminating unnecessary references to violence in how we interact with others, so that we can make a shift towards greater peace.
“If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can blossom like a flower and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.”
Thich Nhat Hanh