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Disarming Harm with Understanding

As I move deeper into my Yoga teaching and personal practice, I recognize not all concepts taught in Yoga classes and Yoga Teacher Trainings are easily understood or quickly ingrained into our everyday lives simply by exposure. They deepen slowly with dedication to the union of mind, body, and spirit. We find that coming together, that union, by committing to a regular Yoga practice, reading and studying the masters, and undertaking regular meditation. The search for the truth in our practice and every aspect of our lives depends on our willingness and patience to pursue it. Our path to the truth in Yoga and ourselves often begins with a study of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, translated from the ancient philosophical text, the Yoga Sutra by Patanjali. The first two limbs are related to the attitude we have toward other people and things: the five Yamas, and how we privately relate to ourselves: the five Niyamas. The first Yama as well as the overarching concept of Yoga is Ahimsa, translated as doing no harm. To understand its meaning more completely, it’s helpful to look at both parts of the word. Himsa means cruelty or injustice; placing the “a” in front of himsa gives us ahimsa, the opposite definition, non-harming. Well-known Yoga scholar, T.K.S. Desikachar, expands on the definition in “The Heart of Yoga,” adding “it means kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things.” Writers of similar books have touched on the importance of relating to our world and the others in it with respect. For example, in ‘The Four Agreements, A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom,” author Don Miguel Ruiz begins his guidebook suggesting “Be impeccable with your word.” He proposes all relationships can be improved by beginning with how we speak to one another and to ourselves by avoiding gossip and using the power of our communication “in the direction of truth and love.” I’ve found the most significant understanding of Yoga, Ahimsa, and the Yamas and Niyamas occurs over time as we blend our study of it with moving physically through the poses and regularly meditating on its impact to our lives. Uniting the mind, body, and spirit opens our hearts and minds to the endless possibilities for self-discovery and has the power to give us a deeper understanding of the actions of others. My next blog with cover the second of the five Yamas, Satya, which means truthfulness.

*” By practicing Yoga, we gradually improve our ability to concentrate and to be independent. We improve our health, our relationships, and everything we do.” T.K.V. Desikachar, “The Heart of Yoga.”

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