Step 1: Ahimsa

Updated: May 20, 2019

Sanskrit texts, especially sutra style texts, frequently use lists.  After all, each sutra (thread) is meant to abbreviate a larger teaching that the short phrase helps us to recall.  Listing things is a good way to remember things.  Ancient yogis knew that.  And in Sanskrit texts, the ordering of the listed items is not random.  The most important item is the first item and it lays the groundwork for all the others.

Example: when Master Patanjali lays out the yogic path in the Yoga Sutras, he lays out Ashtanga Yoga (not to be confused with the style of Modern Postural Yoga).  Ashtanga translates to eight-limbed.  Here, he gives a list of eight steps: The first anga (limb) is the YAMAS, the second, the NIYAMAS… 

The Yamas and Niyamas are the ethical precepts that yogis are challenged follow.  So before even doing one down dog (which is part of asana, the third limb) we are urged to practice just being good people.  This isn’t about guilt or sin, it’s truly about cause and effect.  If the aim is to commit to our yoga practices, we’ll find ourselves very frustrated if our ethical standing is not a constant priority.

It’s simple.

Try meditating after you’ve just gossipped.  It’s not happening:

Can’t “sit” if your talking shit.  << tweet THAT!

~*~*Yoga Sutras Review*~*~

BIG HEADING: ASHTANGA (the eight-limbed path)

Subheading: YAMA (a list of 5 self regulating behaviors)

subheading2: AHIMSA: nonviolence (the first of the 5 yamas)

(*Sanskrit translation* a: signifies a negation of whatever comes next; himsa: violence)

So let’s get this straight:

the first actionable directive that Master Patanjali gives us,

i.e. the first and most important step on the yogic path is:

try your darndest to do no harm.

You know what grandma says about what you should do if you can’t say anything nice?  Well, Patanjali agrees.  And it’s the groundwork for your own liberation.

Practice non-violence.  It will take shape in strange and different ways each day.  Sometimes with really big important lifesaving stuff and other times, in small shifts that you start to notice in yourself over time:

  • Not texting while driving // 

  • Brushing your hair gently //

  • Saving a bug or practicing meatless Mondays //

  • Dedicating your yoga practice to the mail carrier that looked a little down today //

  • Letting go of a tired old coping mechanism,

  • and using one of those adult coloring books instead…

If you want to really commit to this practice, it’s a great idea to get a group of like-minded beings together to share experiences. We have a fantastic one getting started tomorrow at Onyx Yoga Studio.  All it takes: a commitment to kindness for 21 days and a $15 donation that goes to The Janet Fund:

Whether you do it for yourself or as a dedication to someone else

May all beings benefit.



#healingthroughyoga #healthyhabits #yogainspiration

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