Yoga Sutra Teachings: Ahimsa
When reading Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, there are many teachings, lessons, and ideas that all work to remove or release the mental modifications and support the journey into yoga—the journey into yourself. Patanjali's sutras is a “living text,” meaning you find your interpretations. Sutra 2. 29 introduces the eight limbs of yoga beginning with the first limb, the yamas, and niyamas. The Yamas and Niyamas found in sutras 2.30 and 2.32, parallel how you behave towards yourself (niyamas) and how you act towards others (yamas).
The first yamas teaching is Ahimsa, which I mentioned in my last post “Why Black People Should Inquire about Yoga” I presented this teaching to support how and why yoga can help heal the black community. Ahimsa means non-harming or non-violence to yourself or others, not causing pain to the mind, body or spirit; active love-- love in thought, word, and deed.
In other words, Ahimsa is regularly practiced to learn how to share and give compassion, love, and understanding to the self and others. This practice encourages you to focus and remind yourself to be loving and thoughtful. When practicing ahimsa, you aren’t judging yourself or others, and you aren’t thinking or saying negative things about yourself or others. You are thinking, saying, and doing things that embody non-harming in regard to your own and others well-being. Often, what we think or even believe about ourselves isn’t true. The mind enjoys playing tricks, and it is your job, yoga’s job to work on removing the modifications that set in the mind, habits, and behavior. As you actively practice ahimsa, you are ultimately placing yourself in a position to learn, receive, and give love.
However, practicing Ahimsa in our everyday lives can be difficult, especially if you already have a hard time meeting yourself with compassion and patience. “Without ahimsa, there is no yoga” –Dharma Mittra. Honestly, without meeting yourself where you are or being inconsiderate of your needs and others needs, you reinforce the disconnect between the self and others. One of the reasons why people practice yoga is to get a better understand of how you are, and who you are. In yoga, we are uniting the parts of ourselves that have been separated by trauma, life experiences, and whatever else. The union is the healing you feel when you do and say things that show yourself that you love yourself. Ahimsa comes from deep love and acceptance of self.
How will you practice nonviolence towards youself?