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The Eightfold Path of Yoga: 1. Yamas

The Eightfold Path of Yoga: 1. Yamas

1. Yamas – Restraints or Guidelines

Ahimsa – Non-harming

This month’s study of the Eightfold Path of Yoga focuses on the Yamas which are called the restraints, or guidelines that we use to refine our relationships with our communities and ourselves.  The Yamas do not limit us from living, but begin to open life up so we can live more fully.  They can lead us away from destructive actions, and behaviors that cause suffering.

The 1st Yama is Ahimsa – Non-Harming.  T K V Desikachar writes in his book “The Heart of Yoga” that the Yamas are more “attitudes and behaviors” than restraints.  He suggests that one’s true intentions are the seeds from which one’s behavior blossoms.

Ahimsa starts with how we treat ourselves and then expands to how we treat others.

I like to start any new series of yoga classes with the theme of Ahimsa.  As the class begins we start by simply laying on the mat breathing and scanning the body.  We pay attention to what the body is telling us as we start to settle into stillness.  Have we been pushing our bodies to hard, going beyond the limit of safe movement into the zone where injuries can occur?  Are we using Ahimsa in our thoughts about ourselves? Learning to be kind to ourselves is often a new concept in a society where we can easily become obsessed with being the best instead of simply becoming better.  The thought of needing to be the best can be so overwhelming that it can lead to anxiety, depression or despair.  Becoming better, a little at a time, can be part of Life’s Journey that is attainable.  This month focus on being kind to yourself in your thoughts and actions.  Take some time for self-care each day, even if it’s just a few minutes.  If you are taking care of yourself first you will then have the ability to treat others with kindness.