Ahimsa: A Yogic Approach to Sh*t. ~ Dani McGuire

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Ahimsa (non-violence) is the first Yama.

We know that Yoga means relationship, and Yama is the relationship that we have to everything in the world. Our relationship to the world is a mirror of our relationships to ourselves.  

“For a person who has experienced his Buddha nature, he sees the Buddha nature in everyone. For a person who is full of shit, he sees everybody as a pile of shit.” ~ Dharma Master Fo Yin in his conversation with the infamous poet Su Dong Po (A.D. 1037-1101)

What does this mean to us? Maybe it gives us some insight on how to put up with that annoying co-worker and the person, or press, that keeps slamming the practice that has transformed our lives, or maybe it means to just cut off ties to those that challenge us. What the dharma master is saying is that yoga starts within. Yoga begins with awareness, and that awareness has to start with ourselves. It begins with our Yoga (relationship) to ourselves, and from there, it will spill over into your other relationships. Lately yoga has got a lot of bad press. There have been books and articles written about the stress that yoga can put on our bodies, and scandal within the yoga community exposing teachers’ “dark sides.” First of all, how can Yoga wreck our body!? Yoga means relationship. Relationships can wreck us only if our intentions are not pure. Think again about that co-worker, when we try to change them and their actions, we just strengthen that which is causing turmoil within us in the first place. When we work on ourselves, the co-worker does not change, but our projections and needs for them to turn into someone else do. Yoga is an internal practice and, as a society growing in materialism, many of us have made it an external practice. We cannot help ourselves, we are Americans! We have turned yoga teachers into rockstars and then we get mad at them for sleeping around! These things happen to wake us up, to get a conversation started, and to tear down our walls and expose our hearts (something that takes years of yoga practice to accomplish). Set the intention of love and kindness today, set the intention on your “inner guru” and intuition, and “Self-center” instead of being self-centered. Whatever we set our intention towards expands in our lives. When you come to your mat, set the intention for Ahimsa (non-harming), especially if you have a Type A personality. Set the intention today to be kinder to yourself on your yoga mat, to listen for the needs of your body, mind and Soul, and to nurture your Self. These problems in the yoga community are not because of Yoga, it is because we are humans practicing yoga. It is the reason we came to yoga in the first place!! As Bryan Kest says,”You can take what you learn on your mat and apply it to your life, or you can take what you do in life, and turn your yoga into shit!” Turns out Bryan Kest and the Dharma master Fo Yin had a similar message.

“Ahimsa (non-violence/kindness) is the highest dharma (law). Ahimsa is the best tapas (austerity). Ahimsa is the greatest gift. Ahimsa is the highest self-control. Ahimsa is the highest sacrifice. Ahimsa is the highest power. Ahimsa is the highest friend. Ahimsa is the highest truth. Ahimsa is the highest teaching.” ~ Mahabharata

Dani McGuire is a yoga teacher and asana addict that loves Love, Life, Family, Food, God, and, of course, Yoga. “Since I am unable to quiet the mental chatter and control thirst for earthly pleasures I live, write, and laugh and my human-ness.” Dani leads yoga workshops and teacher trainings, and is the founder of Pranayoga Foundation, a nonprofit teaching yoga to people with cancer and chronic illness. For more about Dani check out here and here.

Edited by Assistant Yoga Editor Soumyajeet Chattaraj

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anonymous Oct 10, 2012 4:10am

[…] […]

anonymous Sep 22, 2012 3:18pm

[…] […]

anonymous Jul 31, 2012 8:58am

[…] a Warrior of the Peace, do what you feel is right to ensure your Ahimsa practice—not causing harm to yourself first and foremost—stays strong, and that you don’t […]

anonymous May 27, 2012 1:33pm

[…] words and their environment, they can make decisions and take action based on the yoga principle of Ahimsa: kindness to self and […]

anonymous May 14, 2012 3:29pm

[…] Ahimsa is non-harming. Therefore, Patanjali is saying that we need to restrain ourselves from causing pain. Satya is truthfulness; this means we need to do our best to be as truthful as we can. At first glance, non-harming and being truthful sounds pretty easy after all our parents told us not to hurt and not to tell lies from a very young age. […]

anonymous Feb 19, 2012 8:26am

Beautiful reminder – thank you SO very much.

Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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anonymous Feb 19, 2012 8:09am

Hi Harleigh, Thanks for getting involved in this conversation. I do think it is important to speak the truth..but what appears to be true to us is only because of our samskaras and projections that make it so. Those that challenge us can be our greatest teachers and by cutting them off from our lives, if we are upset with them, or don't agree with their actions, we are essentially cutting off a part of ourselves. I have found that truth comes when i continue to be present with those that challenge me. Fiercly present. The point of the article was to say that we have been doing a lot of finger pointing in the yoga community lately. Yoga is more of a spiritual practice than physical practice and the spiritual practice is always about confronting..but about confronting ourselves! not each other! i think that is where many religions have gone wrong and i dont want to see that happen in the yoga community. Ahimsa is about not judgeing. we do need to shed light on what is dark, but the best way that i have found to do that is to stay present and notice what happens within me in the face of darkness, not to condemn a practice or person.

anonymous Feb 19, 2012 7:12am

I wonder teachers always use ahimsa as a tool to ¨nit hurt yourself, listen to your body, be gentle on the mat blablabla…"
Ahimsa is a YAMA, reflects to your relationships to others, to the world, to the animals…
It is not about you and your hamstrings…

anonymous Feb 18, 2012 10:46am

I like the article, however, I disagree with the Su Dong Po quote.
I can honestly say I am NOT full of shit, and can easily see when others are.
Call it my pisces nature, I don't know, but I have watched more yoga zealots be "full of shit" while "following [their] Bliss/truth" than I have seen be genuine, accountable, act with integrity, or practice satya.

Thank you for this article.

Maybe, if it gets to the correct people, it will actually make an impact.

I just feel it should have gone a little deeper, and, possibly, been a little more cutting.

The truth hurts, but, sometimes, that is why it needs to be heard.

    anonymous Feb 18, 2012 10:57am

    There is, however, one line that bothers me:

    "….or maybe it means to just cut off ties to those that challenge us."

    That singular line runs counter to the entire article. The article says that we have materialized yoga, and that we are to look at ourselves for the relationship to others, but then, essentially says:

    "if you don't do things my way or see things MY way, then I have no need for you."

    This can be pontificated however one wishes to, but the logical inference is there.
    It contradicts the intention and makes the entire thing hypocritical.
    If the issue is you, then the issue is you, and you must learn to address that "challenge" (especially if it is valid, as in a shortcoming of yourself?)

    Do not allow people an out, as they will focus solely upon that out.

    It is the same reason why people make no progress within yoga, buddhism, taoism, hinduism, or meditation, allowing their egos and vanity to overcome practice.

    Just food for thought…….