Yoga is so often perceived as a physical practice.
The physical aspect of yoga is actually one limb of an 8 limbed practice that, in its entirety, offers ancient knowledge on how to live a spiritual and balanced life both on and off the mat.
The 8 limbs were written into existence over a thousand years ago by the sage Patanjali, who is considered to be the father of modern day yoga. However, the concepts surrounding yoga may have existed for many years before this, albeit passed down in an oral tradition.
The 8 Limbs
Some of these 8 limbs may prove very difficult to modern day yogis. Pratyahara (sensory withdrawal) for example, where you remove external stimuli so that you can listen to the sound from within, may not be available at all times whilst holding down a job and a busy life. But finding the room in our hectic schedules to bring a little pratyahara in can help us to slow down, calm down, and invite more peace, quiet, and awareness into our day to day. Simple adjustments like a temporary social media detox, or not reading the news headlines for a few days can be modern-day twists that encourage pratyahara into our lives!
Today, however, we are discussing one particular limb: the Yamas
What Are The Yamas?
The Yamas are a set of ethical guidelines that are recommended to live a healthy and happy lifestyle. They compose of five self-restraints: things that you shouldn’t do.
The Yamas are also complemented by the Niyamas, a set of things to do, obligations to live by, but we'll get into those another time.
For now, we are just going to focus on the very first Yama, Ahimsa.
Ahimsa is an ancient Indian principle of nonviolence which applies to all living beings. However, nonviolence is a broad aspect. While, yes it means not physically hurting or causing damage to others, it also encompasses a whole range of violence that we bring to ourselves, and others, through physical, emotional and psychological violence.
The Yamas are designed to allow us to cleanse the mind, body and spirit by living more consciously.
These Yamas have been in existence for more than 2000 years, and have lasted the test of time because they are just as relatable today as they were when they are written.
Of course, when interpreting ancient principles, we sometimes have to take a look at it from the perspective of our modern day lives. So how can you incorporate Ahimsa in your day-to-day?
In Daily Life
You can apply Ahimsa to your daily life by becoming more conscious of the way that you treat yourself. This can come in many forms. Consumption. The food you eat, the media. By being more aware of Ahimsa you can consider the things you consume daily. Do they cause you harm? Emotionally or physically?
When it comes to diet, if we're talking strict Ahimsa, it would mean to refrain from any animal-derived products. However, that doesn't mean that is the be-all and end-all. We recognise that food is very personal and very cultural. Making steps to ensure that your diet doesn’t hurt the planet, doesn’t cause unnecessary harm to animals, and does not cause undue stress to other human beings is a journey, not a straight-through process.
You can also apply Ahimsa to your diet just by caring for your body, fueling it with a healthy and nutritious diet. Being connected and aware of your body and the changes based on what you eat and drink is a great start to look at areas that you could better care for your body.
How You Treat Yourself