More and more people seem to be adding yoga to their daily routine. What is it about yoga that our society finds intriguing, to begin with, and often, more and more satisfying, as the practice of this ancient Hindu spiritual discipline, finds its way into the mind, body, and spirit of the new practitioner? Perhaps it is exactly that! Yoga is not just a physical exercise, or activity. It is a mind/body/spirit experience, a union of those three entities that encompasses a deeply meaningful philosophy and way of being. In the hectic, 24/7 lifestyle, that so many Millennials, Gen-X, Gen-Y, and even late Baby Boomers have adopted, many are searching for an oasis of tranquility, calm, and peace that the practice of yoga can provide.
Living in our world today offers many challenges, and while some yogis may focus more on the asanas, the other 7 limbs of yoga offer an approach to life that brings clarity, calm, and peace to human existence. Often, even if one starts with the asanas, that can lead to a curiosity to find out more about where this ancient tradition came from and what it has to offer.
I know that is what drew me to yoga. I am a relative new comer to the practice of yoga, but after 5 years of practice, I wanted to deepen my understanding of the yoga philosophy. I began teacher training and soon decided that it was time for a career change. The philosophy I was learning about had me hooked, I wanted teach. I do, however credit my previous profession, of early childhood education, with the understanding that positive role modeling is key to students’ acquisition and integration of new learning material. If I act as a role model, students will, in many cases, do as I do!
The first limb of Yoga, the Yamas, offer ways of ‘being’ in relationship to our world, to other people, and to ourselves, that are central to living a life of freedom (Donna Farhi, Yoga Mind, Body, and Spirit: A Return to Wholeness – pg. 7). The first Yama, Ahimsa, is a characteristic, integral to a life lived in freedom. Ahimsa is compassion for all living things and can be roughly translated as, ‘nonviolence’. But what does that really mean – is it simply, “thou shalt not kill”? Ahimsa goes beyond not killing living creatures or other human beings. Ahimsa speaks, as well, to the relationship we have with ourselves.
Ahimsa encourages self-kindness and self-love. It encourages gentle words of gratitude and self-compassion. The ability to extend compassion to our natural world and all living creatures depends on our ability to show compassion to ourselves.
The ability of practicing yogis to understand the meaning and the importance of Ahimsa, comes in part from, seeing their yoga teacher, as self-accepting and knowing that they too, with all their beautiful imperfections and unique characteristics, are accepted by their teacher. Then they must work on accepting themselves.
If actions and our words are based in Ahimsa, we can pass on to others the benefits and the beauty that yoga can bring to life. I believe that Yoga and the Yogic philosophy will have the greatest effect on humanity as it changes one life at a time, one practice at a time, one breath at a time.