The 8 Limb Path of Yoga is a guideline to Yogic Living. It was discussed in Pantanjalis “The Yoga Sutra’s”. He called the 8 limb path “Ashtanga” which is the Sanskrit word for it. Ashtanga, you may recognize as a style of Yoga practice, often referred to as The Primary Series. Ashtangi's practice the series along with the 8 limb path in order to live a wholesome, full circle, purposeful life. Yogi’s have adopted the 8 limb path as a way to live.
This is your cheat sheet to the 8 limb path. Every week, until we make it through the 8 limbs, we will discuss a different part of the 8 limb path. A simple easy to remember guide to what it means to live a yoga. It will give you a deeper understanding of what you are hearing in class.
The first of the 8 limbs are the Yamas. The Yamas are a moral code. The focus of the Yamas is on our behavior, how we relate to others and ourselves. It is how we conduct ourselves in life and our intention behind our actions. This is more of an outward release of your energy and where it is going. There are 5 Yamas.
Ahimsa- This is the first and arguably the most important of the Yamas. Ahimsa is non-harm. Non-harmful , non-violent thoughts and actions to others and ourselves. This means creating a positive inner voice that does not fill our minds with self-doubt or self-harm. It means using kind words to others even if their words don't match. Learning to navigate in a way where you tip toe through the world leaving all that you touch with a sense or your ethereal bliss.
Some ways to practice Ahimsa are really quite simple but may require a little self- discipline. One of the first ways and probably the most important is learning to change any nagging voices in your head. Any voice thats telling you no. Any voice that is setting you up to feel less than your best self. By learning to be kind to ourselves first, then we can learn to practice Ahimsa in the outside world. We must first respect ourselves and treat our mental body kindly. A lot of the time we think being selfless is giving all of our time and energy to others. But we cannot help others until we nurture ourself. So learning positive affirmations and forgiveness to ourselves if the first step to Ahimsa.
Once we are kind to ourselves we can learn kindness for others. Learning to change our way to converse and communicate with others. Its important to note that everyone in this world is in a personal battle and sometimes we allow our frustration spill out onto others. But learning to change the way we react to others causes a chain reaction. So the next time you find yourself in a situation where you feel yourself getting frustrated or upset just take a moment and breathe. Think of how you can end this conversation or situation in a positive way. Sometimes by responding kindly or warmly you may just change the energy of the conversation. And this does not mean being weak or not standing your ground. It means finding a way to navigate as a gentle warrior, a warrior of light.
Another way to add a little ahimsa into the world is by changing the way we eat. By becoming more mindful of our consumption. And consumption going past just the food industry, but taking a deep look into buying patterns. By switching to a plant based diet is a simple but dedicated way to change your output into the world. By not causing harm to animals and ingesting their pain we start to change our internal emotional body to be a bit gentler. While some Yogis may disagree with me, I think having a plant based diet is an important part of Yogic Living. By not agreeing to par take in large factory farms hurting animals and participating in animal cruelty it can give you a more peaceful demeanor. Not to mention it is healthier way to live and a way to be kind to yourself.
Being kind to our Earth is part of our Universal debt for living on the resources she provides. Making sure we buy products that are environmentally friendly, supporting our scientists that are researching Climate Change and remembering to reuse products we already have. We only have one earth its good to practice kindness to it and on it.
And not to forget being kind on your mat. Being kind to yourself no matter where you are in your practice. Listening to your body and not practicing self harm by taking yourself farther than you are ready to go. By being patient with yourself and taking breaks when you need to. But also being kind to those in the class around you and not casting a judgmental eye on your fellow yogis. Remembering to honor everyone you meet. We are all on our own journeys and we all deserve kindness and respect.
Overall Ahimsa is the practice of tapping into your gentler self. Learning to honor yourself and be more mindful of all living beings around you. Just taking the time and courage to be kind. Next week we will be discussing the next Yama, Satya.
Some Ahimsa, Heart opening, Anahata inspiring Yoga poses:
Freedohm Yogis : Liridona Duraku, Heily Garcia and Anastasia Latassa.