By Alana Bray, Owner of Yoga Bound According to Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, living ethically is the first step on the Yoga path. The Yoga sutras outline 5 ethical codes of conduct, or Yamas. This universal vows are imperative to live a fulfilled life as well as benefit society, The first Yama Ahimsa, or non-violence, lays the foundation for all other Yamas, and therefore is the groundwork of our Yoga Practice.
Kindness and non-violence starts not by how you treat others, but how you treat yourself. Our Yoga practice is the microphone for our life. How we treat ourself in our practice is how we treat ourself and others in our life. The premiss of kind and sincere treatment towards ourself depends on this substructure of our Yoga practice:
- Respectful and consistent attention the moment the practice begins
- Yogic Breath: Long, slow, deep, calm, gradualized, symmetrical breath. Each one is important and depends on your attentive presence. This breath can both stabilize and soften everything in you when you are present with it.
- Balance of effort and ease.
When we have this infrastructure to our practice, it places awareness of ahimsa in that moment. When your attention displays deep admiration, it is in its nature seeing, magnifying and perpetuating kindness in all areas where that attention is placed. There is no way to have a violent, stress inducing or toxic thought in the same moment the breath is Yogic. Knowing the balance of effort and ease is important in our spiritual practice and in our physical asana practice. Through our attention on our breath, we can notice the quality of our efforts. If there is not a balance, there will be no ease in our efforts; our mental state as well as our movements will be abrasive. We want to go with grace to the right place in our practice everyday. We want to have effort enough to keep our attention, but ease enough to keep our breath and fluidity. If we are too deep in a pose, or transitions are jagged, we have lost our breath, attention and balance, and therefore the substructure of Ahimsa in our practice.
Once we commit to this underlying structure of kindness in our Yoga practice, we have done the important work of regulating the violent thoughts, words and actions that have the potential of violating our ethical code. Off the mat, our Yoga practice is shifting the violent habits that we might have in all aspects of our being. For example, what goes through your mind when a smoker sits next to you? Your thoughts towards the situation can be just as toxic as the cigarette.
Much of our Yoga is perfecting the practice of Ahimsa as all the other ethics are subsumed in it. Remember, Ahimsa is forgiveness, true strength, clarity, kindness and above all LOVE. May we use our Yoga practice to exemplify this in our life.