Ahimsa, or non-violence, is one of the principles underpinning yoga practice. The essence of yoga is not to cause harm – be it by thought, word, or deed.
According to Brad’s Iyengar Yoga Notebook, this includes: not harming other people or other sentient beings; not harming oneself; not harming the environment; tolerance even for that which we dislike; and not speaking that which, even though truthful, would injure others.
A tall order indeed. So, where can I start? Can we practice ahimsa towards others if we don’t, first, protect ourselves? As the on board safety announcements tell us, we must first put on our own oxygen mask before helping others.
Recognising what we do that may harm us makes us open to change. Many are finding yoga a help with overcoming addiction, as they become more aware of their body, and how abuse affects it. Taking even just a few minutes a day to reflect on your posture and breath can help you respect your body’s real needs, and bring clarity to the decisions we make everyday.
How to eat and drink, dress, care for ourselves, when we take care of ourselves we are able to become conscious of the real needs of others. ‘Love all so you wish to kill none’ is the meaning of ahimsa attributed to the Buddha.
Practically, we learn to treat ourselves with love in a yoga class, by practising the yoga postures in a way that brings life to dull areas of our body and mind, and peace to the parts that have been overworked.
Freeing your feet from the confines of socks so you can learn to care for your posture from the soles of your feet to the top of your head not only benefits your feet, but also your whole posture and your composure.
A fruitarian diet may be the kindest for the environment – and most in keeping with the hermit’s lifestyle – but even eating our five portions of fruit and vegetables a day will help us all on the path of self love.
Five minutes of peace
Imagine yourself warm and relaxed
Feel your posture
Notice how evenly you are standing or sitting
Listen to your breath
Notice the sound of your in breath and of your out breath
Make a positive statement about yourself
Eg I am sitting comfortably
Think positively about others or your environment
Eg Their smiles are as welcoming as the sunshine
Junior Intermediate level 1 IYENGAR Yoga Teacher
BR1 BR4 SE 20 www.ahyoga.org.uk
Text 07771 56 50 46
As printed in Vista Magazine May 2012