Ahimsa

Yogis from class today asked me to write down some thoughts I shared at the end of shavasana, and so I offer them out to you now in hopes that they resonate in your hearts as well, and perhaps radiate out into the world as an energy for change and peace.

When we practice yoga we‘re reminded that we’re Westerners practicing an ancient Eastern form of exercise. And as prerequisites to the asanas (physical postures), we are taught to honor the yamas (moral restraint) and niyamas (observance) which serve as the guiding principles for HOW to practice yoga authentically.

The first and most important principle is AHIMSA: a practice of non-harm and non-violence towards ourselves and others. Ahimsa is adopting and honoring an attitude of compassion, gentleness, loving kindness in our thoughts, words, and actions. We are asked to practice this not just on our mats, but to carry it out into our daily lives.

It’s the very core and foundation for our practice and is powerful. The concept of AHIMSA isn’t exclusive to yoga; in fact almost every major religion embraces it in some fashion : “Thou shall not kill”, and “Love thy neighbor as you love yourself” – pretty important stuff that we’ve been educated with socially all our lives, right?

And yet, when you turn on the TV and throughout all the media outlets, experts inform us that we are a culture that LOVES violence, we’re addicted to it, it’s epidemic and probably irreversible. As evidence, they cite our love of violent films, books, video games, the blood and gore of it all which is so sought after in our country. Even among our sports teams, the anger, aggression, and lack of sportsman-like behavior helps breeds this culture of violence and animosity, hatred.

And sadly, it would seem they are right.

And so the question is HOW — HOW do we change our society? We know we can do better.

And as a yoga teacher— I’m so frustrated — that the answer seems so simple, so basic—The answer is within each of us, and all we have to do is embrace it, practice it, share it. It’s the attitude of AHIMSA.

If we ever want our culture to shift or profoundly improve each of us has to become a warrior for peace. We have to deliberately and passionately plant the seeds of non violence in the hearts and minds of our children, and grow its roots between one another.

How?

In the choices we make each day—and by our own shining examples, how we address one another, respect one another, strangers, friends, family– especially those who are different from us.

We have to let our yoga-ness shine out into the world so that one day human beings everywhere will cringe at any thought, word, or action that causes harm to another.

This is the enlightened human being, the true yogi. It’s the only clear answer to end the fear among us. AHIMSA is the only answer if we want the heal the world.

Namaste. ~ Lisa

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