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Ahimsa, the first Yama

March 02, 2021

Ahimsa, el primer Yama

What determines the action is the intention.

Today, YogaYe He suggests that we talk about first yama indicated by Patanjali in the scriptures of the Yoga Sutras, ahimsa.

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Ahimsâpratist hâyâm tatsannidhau vairatyâgah (Yoga Sûtra, II.35)

I) Ahimsa, what is it

Origins

The first appearance of this term in the context of Indian philosophy is found in the Hindu scriptures called the Upanishads, which date back to 800 BC.

Definition

Ahiṃsā is a Sanskrit term that refers to a philosophical concept that advocates non-violence and respect for life. It is the opposite of himsa (violence). Ahiṃsa is an important doctrine in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. It is usually interpreted as a symbol of peace and respect towards beings capable of feeling.

Ahimsa representation

The idea of ​​ahimsa is often identified with a wheel in the palm symbolizing the Jain vow of ahimsa and representing the dharma chakra: reincarnation through peace and non-violence. Therefore, in various philosophies the idea of ​​ahimsa is intended to avoid bad karma.

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II) The first Yama

In the second book of Patanjali's sutras, we find the first of the 5 yamas or ethical attitudes: ahimsa. The most used translation is “non-violence”. But, what does Yoga mean by non-violence?

understand ahimsa

The practice of ahimsa includes constant vigilance and observation of ourselves when we interact with others, taking note of our thoughts and intentions in order to act in a non-violent way.
Affability, kindness, cordiality, sweetness, softness, tenderness are some of the characteristics of non-violence. So are understanding, peace, dialogue, love, communication, agreements, compassion and empathy.

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Respect and non-violence towards oneself

Ahimsa begins with respect and acceptance and non-violence towards oneself. Self-respect begins with self-knowledge. Some of the reflections regarding this non-violence could be:
• how I react emotionally
• I listen to myself every moment
• what I feel at each moment
• I take time for myself
• I accept myself as I am

In the practice of Yoga, we constantly encounter small challenges.
• how is my internal dialogue when I lose my balance in an asana?
• how do I talk to myself?
• how do I treat myself?
• Do I respect the limits of my body and my breathing?


III) A little history of ahimsa

Mahatma Gandhi

The greatest defender of this doctrine in the XNUMXth century, Gandhi recognized this precept as fundamental to human ethics, which led him to adopt a life of non-violence. He constantly repeated that a person is only defeated when he gives up the fight. He himself returned to the attack again and again with renewed vigor.

Later civil rights movements were influenced by this concept, and Martin Luther King was one of them.

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Ahimsa in the West

Mahatma Gandhi introduced this concept in the West, later other movements in favor of the rights of the land and animals are influenced by this philosophy, carrying out pacifist protests in favor of those rights and in rejection of violence.
This philosophy has inspired many to pursue similar concepts such as Nonviolent Communication, developed by Dr Marshall Rosenberg.
Yoga and meditation in its frequent practice in the West has helped a lot to recognize and become familiar with the importance of ahimsa.


IV) How to practice ahimsa

The first step in the practice of ahimsa is to recognize our tendencies to himsa and to identify when, how and why these tendencies arise. Without this awareness, we will not be able to move forward.
In theory, we can agree with the principle of ahimsa and believe that we live according to it. But what happens when someone steps on us? How does anger arise and how can it cause aggression? Ahimsa invites us to analyze our actions and reactions to the events that happen to us and examine our motivations in depth.

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Ahimsa during asana practice

Sometimes negative thoughts are much more powerful than physical aggression and another way to go against this Yama is to force our body too much in some asanas, to argue with ourselves by wanting to go beyond what we can anatomically or by putting on that mental pressure that will only lead us to the delay and the limitation of the fluidity that the path of our practice wants to show us.

We can begin to practice ahimsa during asana practice if we observe and ask ourselves: am I willing to sacrifice my health to become more competitive? Am I willing to hurt myself to impress the teacher or other practitioners? in order to excel?
These motivations can also exist in our personal practice at home, because when we practice alone we may be doing it with the aim of impressing others in the future. The next time you open your yoga mat to practice at home, observe.


Apply Ahimsa outside the mat

In the same way that in the practice of Yoga we refine the execution of asana in a way that does not cause us harm, the process of refinement in the space of relationships towards our environment is very great.

Ahimsa must be applied consciously taking into account the grand scheme of circumstances, with all the information available in view and from there, make the decision that is considered most appropriate from love and compassion. When we practice ahimsa under such a premise, the rest of the Niyamas develop naturally and precisely.

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In conclusion

Patanjali was more focused on defending ahimsa as an attitude of mind than on what we literally do. Violence can appear, but it becomes non-violence when it becomes conscious and present, thus shaping the attitude towards others. This would be a more emotional approach, referring to the individual management of negative emotions, which lead us to violent states rather than the prohibition of acting in a certain way.

Thus, ahimsa invites us to consider our actions both at a deep and subtle level and to seek the answers of what ahimsa means to us.

Practice ahimsa inside and outside the mat.

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