Ahimsa

Ahimsa

The five disciplines that Patanjali called the ‘great vow’ are known as the Yama’s, the first limb of Ashtanga Yoga. As you begin to practice them you will see that they not only benefit you but everyone that you come into contact with. If you believe that you get back what you put into life, then these disciplines will instantly bring you positive results.

  1. Ahimsa – Non Harming
  2. Satya – Truthfulness
  3. Asteya  – Non stealing
  4. Brahmacarya – Chastity
  5. Aparigraha – Greedless ness

First comes Ahimsa – Non-harming.

This discipline is much harder to grasp then you may first think. It should be applied towards others but more importantly towards yourself. Sometimes it is much harder to be nice to yourself. Personally I find it easier to be kinder towards others than to myself. When I first started practicing this I realized just how negative my inner voice was. I would put myself down, beat myself up and convince myself that I wasn’t good enough or worthy for a whole heap of things. Once I began to notice this I made a decision, a commitment to yoga, to change this. I was going to start being nice to myself.

First I had to start noticing when I was doing it and then I had to start picking myself up on it. Changing the voice, repeating the same thoughts but in a positive way. The first step to change is always actually noticing that you are doing something in a certain way. By bringing attention to it, it no longer continues to be unconscious and starts to become a conscious action. Only when it is in your consciousness can you begin to change it.

So non-harming towards yourself started for me by changing my negative attitude towards myself. I learnt how to begin talking to myself in a nicer tone. Sounds easy – it wasn’t. Yet slowly, with practice you can begin to replace old habbits with new ones. Slowly I started talking to myself with more loving kindness, I started telling myself about all the good things about myself rather than concentrating on the bad things. I started saying “I can…” Instead of “I can’t because of.”

I started to stop myself from beating myself up about things and for every negative thought about myself that I had I consciously replaced it with a positive one that was stronger.

No-harming can also been seen in what you put into your body. If you are feeding your body with toxins then you are self harming. If you are abusing alcohol or drugs, then you are harming your precious body. As I get older I realise that I can’t expect so much from my body and that if I expect it to heal when it starts to hurt, fix when it breaks, repair when it becomes damaged, then I have to look after it a little in return.

Your body can not heal if it is in a constant state of survival, if it is being damaged daily by toxins then it is only really trying to repair immediate damage and cannot give enough energy to the parts that need to be repaired.

I realised that I had to start taking more care of me in order to really be living the discipline of non harming the self.

This is a principle of non-harming must also be applied to others. You should try not to harm others by words, thought or action. This is incredibly hard at first, when you notice how many of our thoughts are based on greed, jealously, anger, resentment or spite. You have to begin noticing your thoughts and then trying to remove the negative ones. Trying not to talk negatively about someone that has caused you harm or annoyance is not easy. Trying not to have bad thoughts towards an ex-lover who has cheated on you is even harder. However all these negative emotions actually leave a bad taste in our own mouth, and simply by recognising and releasing these feelings, wishing well for your ex partner and sending them on their way, leaves you with a sense of calm and peace within. And that is what we are after right?

Treating all beings, including yourself with loving-kindness does not come over night. You must practice, practice and then practice some more.

Luckily you have the rest of your life to practice.

One Comment

  1. Iain

    Wow, we are totally on the same wavelength, I could have written that article and it would have been almost identical.
    Like you, I have spent my life rushing around helping others.
    Fortunately though, over the last year or so I have been lucky enough to meet some amazing Yoga teachers, who have taught me the importance of loving myself too. It was a wonderful teacher called Laura, who first put me on the path. She was the one who opened my mind to change. It was because of her that I started listening to the advice that other teachers gave me. In particular my first proper Yoga teacher who has been preaching about Ahimsa and the other yama’s since day one.
    It is difficult because at first you feel like you are being selfish.
    Ultimately though, it puts you in a better frame of mind and it makes you stronger.
    It makes you far more capable of love and compassion towards others and conversely gives you the ability to accept it too.
    This last year, since i have found love for myself and who I really am, I have started changing into the man I have always wanted to be. I am no longer a chameleon changing my colours to suit each social group.
    I no longer beat myself up and think in negative terms. I mostly think in positive terms now (still some work to do) I am just me and I am proud of that. I have strengths and weaknesses, I am not perfect. That is fine.
    I am a good man, I help others when I can and I am worth having as a friend.
    As one of my teachers is so keen on saying ‘ the way you are on the mat is the way you are in life’- so true.
    Shame it took almost 21 years of practice to learn that.

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