The Pondering Yogini – Ahimsa

…here are the words from last weeks classes, my thoughts on AHIMSA: to cause no harm…..


Yoga is a choice: to live positively. To take care of the body, to become reacquainted with the breath to step off the merry go round of stress that is driven by our ego, our ignorance, our attachment to pleasure, our aversion to difficulty and our fear, ultimately of our own death,   and instead learn to dwell in,  and savour the present moment. Perhaps that does not sound so difficult? The ancient yoga sages disagree, we are told that the true path of yoga is narrow and more difficult to navigate across than a razors edge. It is sad then that there are probably more yoga practitioners  today,  who can stand on their head than can sit with themselves in silence and solitude even for a moment. If our practice becomes about the acquisition of postures at any cost, including injuring the body, and neglecting our other duties, if our practice becomes about conquering this body, then we are still on the merry go round of stress, but now also suffering from the delusion that we have escaped its giddy turns, and so, rendered ourselves incapable of tasting the sweetness of real freedom. It does not matter why you came to yoga or what your intention was, or whether that intention was pragmatic, esoteric, vague or non-existent, yoga will bear fruit that you may never have imagined (it is unlikely that the insect or the  tree had apples in mind when the bee alighted on the blossom). It is the fruit of becoming the fullest version of yourself that you can, possibly a version beyond the horizon of our imagination. And it is never too late to start. The philosophy of yoga that truly must underpin our endeavours on the mat, (for without this, it is gymnastics at best and an ego inflating form of self torture at worst ), gives us clear guidelines as to how best to proceed along our life journey towards this best version of ourselves, so that we need not start this quest for self knowledge rudderless , map-less or clueless, though each one of us must start our journey alone, in full acceptance of ourselves just as we are right now in this present moment. And that can be daunting, to start the journey as flawed as we all are, as deluded as we all are, as in exile from our true selves as we all are. So as we set off on our quest we have with us a set of ethical precepts, of  instructions on how to live a more soulful life, and the first of these instructions whispered to us across time by the ancient yoga sages is….do no harm…….ahimsa.

We will learn to cause no harm to ourselves, to other creatures both human and of other species, and to our world. But the work has to start on the inner landscape. If we continue to do harm to ourselves, with negative thoughts, a punitive inner dialogue, with self harming behaviour for which we have an array of vehicles,  food, alcohol tobacco and all the other drugs,  exercise, sloth, unhealthy relationships, (so many to choose from!) then we will find ourselves incapable of safeguarding anyone from harm. All acts of harm necessitate that we isolate ourselves from our Selves, and from the rest of the world,  that we savagely mute our heart voice, so that we can continue to crash through the jungle of our lives like an enraged elephant, mindlessly, leaving devastation in our wake. Yoga invites us to wake up! To examine the way we are living and to learn to detect signs of harm, so that we can break away from old habits and create new,  more life affirming patterns.

Take a few moments to think about ways in which you may be harming yourself in your daily living, choices that you are making that are taking you further away from the path that your feet are so ready to tread…and then, with this awareness, accept yourself, just as you are, and know that this ability to truly love yourself is  the first step on the path towards you true self.

Once we have an awareness of ways in which we are causing harm to ourselves, we begin to notice the behaviour much sooner, before so much damage has been done, and to pause. In the same way as we begin to notice the natural pauses that occur at the end of the outbreath, at the top of the inbreath, this heightened awareness gives us time to stop, to consider and to actively choose another course. And slowly but surely, the way we treat ourselves, begins to change, we begin to shake off our old negative patterns and to embrace new ways of being. We begin to feel our feet on the path, to be excited by the adventure of life still ahead of us, and to know that once we learn to truly love and accept ourselves, we are limitless, unbound, free….

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