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