So, this post is only partly about what I had planned it to be about today. I wanted to focus just on yoga yamas today, but it’s found it’s way into a whole lot of other areas of my life. In the Gate’s book on Day 18 we get introduced to the first of the yamas: ahimsa. The yamas are the first of the eight limbs in the path of Raja yoga. There are five yamas and they are considered the moral restraints of yoga. This can be a little bit confusing and I am lecturing on the yamas and niyamas this week to my yoga class, so I’m hoping that I can clearly and concisely fit all of this info into one lecture for them….at least enough for a beginner’s understanding. The yamas and niyamas (the five observances) work together to form the yoga code of ethics to live by; much like the 10 commandments of Christianity. Ahimsa is nonviolence, similar to that of Thou Shalt Not Kill, but different.
In yoga the yamas and niyamas reflect a code by which you live first in your actions, then in your speech, and finally in your thoughts. This is a practice that must be cultivated over time and is (in the case of the yamas) in direct relation to the external world. This takes commitment. Four commitments actually:
- Jati: They are practiced universally in relation to all beings of all types of birth, species, or states of life.
- Desha: They are practiced equally in all places or spaces.
- Kala: They are practiced continuously in all times.
- Samaya: They are practiced uniformly among all circumstances or situations.
The day that I read about ahimsa I considered the action of meditating and what was the most nonviolent thing regarding yoga that I could conjure? For me that meant meditating in Child’s Pose because what could be less violent than a child? I practiced in the way that I had done many times before and thought of all of the way’s that child’s pose is beneficial to my every day. I am still using it to surrender (read about that here), but it can also quiet the mind. Some days I need to use something to quiet my mind while meditating other than the practice of meditation itself and finding myself in child’s pose with my forehead against the mat I can easily massage my “third eye” and release the tensions floating behind it in the mind.
Physically child’s pose can also stretch the lower back muscles that we all wear out on a daily basis; allow our abdomen to relax so that we can digest (maybe even digest some thoughts along the way), and eases menstrual cramps for women (and mentally some other pains). I needed child’s pose yesterday as well. I went out for a run and realized that eating trail mix before a run is not a good idea. I had to walk for a short stint of the run because my gut full o’ nuts was pushing on my bladder as I pushed my pace down hill. With every jarring hit of my foot against the ground I felt like I was about to explode and leak all over the road. I should have been in child’s pose to digest before I ran, it would have saved me some harm.
I need nonviolence in my life in so many ways. I need to not harm those around me with my actions. I choose not to spank my children because I never felt that it was effective in teaching me how to be a better person as I grew and I don’t think that hitting out of frustration with an action allows a child to learn how to handle frustration of their own. I can practice not harming others through my actions by treating my world with kindness and not polluting so that future generations will be able to enjoy the things that I have. I can not harm others by not supporting industries that use child labor and companies that don’t treat their employees well. There are so many other ways that I can choose nonviolence in action that I cannot possibly list here. But, despite the idea that the yamas deal with the outside world, I also believe in nonviolence toward myself. Today’s run will be a gentle one to promote the care of my body after pushing my pace the first three days of this month and today’s yoga will be more child’s pose to rejuvenate my body as well as my mind and soul.
This nonviolence physically will also incorporate my choices in what I eat. I read a great memoir over at GMFR about being a chaotic unconscious eater and I need to remember that eating poorly is harming myself just as much as anything else. I have tried to keep my mindless snacking in check today although I had some troubling family news that made me want to avoid eating at first and then hit up all the carb filled snacks in my house after my emotions swung from anxious uncertainty to fear and sadness.
Today I ask you to think of the most nonviolent thing you can and determine how you can incorporate ahimsa into your daily actions. Can you truly accept it as a part of your physical life in each of the four commitments? Can you then move to incorporating it into your speech and thoughts? How do you practice ahimsa with yourself?
And, in order to keep positive today, I share this with you because it’s what popped into my head before I thought to practice child’s pose: