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Going Out on a Limb

Ahimsa: The first YAMA

The whole of the world is currently riding a wave of change; and for many, we are living in a state of unease and uncertainty, politically, economically and personally. History tells us that large scale despair and discontent breeds fear and aggression; leading people to become divided rather than being united.

In times of struggle and darkness, there is always a yoga mat some place, some where waiting for us to lay all that down on, where a gradual awareness of our selves and our surroundings occurs; perhaps even a shift on a more subtle level of our being. And when this starts to happen, we can change not just our own story, but also create a bigger shift so that history doesn’t have to repeat itself.

At the core of yoga is an ‘Eight Fold Path’ also referred to as ‘Eight Limbed’ or ‘Astanga Yoga’. (NOT to be confused with the astanga practice method as taught by Sharath Jois). Each of the 8 limbs provides a means of attaining yoga – union with the divine. Initially written by Patanjali, these eight limbs of yoga form part of The Yoga Sutras – the first ever documented text on the teachings of yoga.

At the top of the 8 limbs are the YAMAS – a universal set of moral considerations we can use to inform how we think, act and move - irrespective of creed, ethnicity or cultural differences.

The first of the YAMAS is AHIMSA: non-violence or rather, non-harming. Though it’s not a purely negative or restrictive guideline, as BKS Iyengar states in Light on Yoga (a more modern essential yoga text by one of yoga’s recently passed gurus), it’s more along the uplifting and optimistic lines of love thyself, love thy neighbor and love all of creation itself. In essence, it’s a broader meaning of LOVE itself.

In order to practice ahimsa, it takes hard work and action – which begins from within. Being loving and kind with ourselves first and foremost is by far THE hardest, and MOST confronting work of all. It’s much easier to shift our attention toward others instead of having to look at ourselves in an honest, open and loving light. Ahimsa serves to remind us that in every situation we should adopt a considerate attitude and do no harm.

From the outset, it certainly seems like a big daunting task. So just start small – begin with your yoga practice. And if not through yoga, then some other aspect– perhaps how you eat, how you move or care for your self. Without too much interrogation – can you be more mindful, and move your body from a place of care, kindness and being attentive to your inner self in the same way you would perhaps tend to a garden – providing water and sunshine for growth and from time to time doing a little bit of the necessary weeding that comes with having a garden. Tend to your self in the same manner and watch what happens…you might even bloom (super cheesy but had to add it in).

With the weight of the world so heavy, we can shine a light from within and share this light with others; through kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people, beings and situations. Ahimsa can and will gradually percolate into our actions, our duties, as well as our responsibilities both near and far.

One life, one love...go out on a limb.

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