By Jennifer Kelleher
Yoga’s Yamas and Niyamas are ethical guidelines for a well-lived life. Last week at Ocean Bliss Yoga, we kicked off a free, weekly study group series to explore Yoga’s ethical principles, with the help of Deborah Adele’s book on the topic. We also held a donation-based class this past Saturday to help those struggling in Israel.
The first Yama is Ahimsa, or “nonviolence.” I found it particularly synchronistic to be spending time reflecting on this Yama now, with the large outbreak of violence that is currently happening in our world. In times like these, it can be difficult to know what to do or how to support the people who are suffering in a meaningful way. In her book, “The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Principles,” Deborah Adele writes, “Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.”
Ahimsa is the foundation of our lives. Deborah explains that if we do not ground our actions and lives in nonviolence, they will be inevitably unsteady and unsustainable.
While some forms of violence are outright and obvious, it can sometimes be the subtler forms of violence that leave the greatest negative impact on our lives and on others. If we are not aware that our habits or tendencies are violent, we cannot consciously change them. The author writes, “tiny acts of violence have huge and lasting impacts on others [and I would add, ourselves].” For example, an extreme diet where you feel deprived can leave you reactive and cause you to be impatient with those you love.
Another example is worrying. Deborah explains that worry is violence being masked as care. When you worry about someone, you are telling them that you don’t trust them to do their lives right. Worry comes from a place of arrogance, and it is devaluing and insulting to the person you are worrying over.
The act of Ahimsa begins within ourselves. It is impossible to be nonviolent to others if we are violent to ourselves, for how we treat ourselves is how we treat others. I invite you to reflect: How do you talk to yourself? How do you take care of yourself?
Becoming aware gives you the opportunity to start choosing love, more and more. Ask yourself throughout the day, “Is this thought/action loving?” Be mindful in your approach, as “attempts to change self instead of love self, keep us trapped in a vicious cycle we can’t crawl out of.”
The author suggests to the readers to practice falling in love with themselves. I do a similar exercise where I practice seeing through eyes of love. In this practice, I am completely in love with everyone and everything, including myself. I also imagine what the world would be like if everyone lived in love, completely in love, all of the time. Can you see it? Can you feel it?
Deborah writes, “Love lies at the core of nonviolence and begins with love of self. Finding love for all parts of yourself means forgiving yourself.” Forgiveness is a profound and effective practice that brings deep healing to both you and the person you are forgiving (if it is someone other than yourself). The Ancient Hawaiian Ho’Oponopono Healing Meditation and the Metta Meditation are both great tools to help you find forgiveness.
Nonviolence can be found in space. It is in the quiet, it is in the listening. Nonviolence can be discovered in gratitude, in presence, and in thinking of others. This week, I invite you into our (newly redesigned) space at Ocean Bliss Yoga to bring more space into your body, mind, and life. Book your next class or workshop at oceanblissyoga.net.