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Yama #1 Ahimsa

April 16, 2013

In my previous blog on the Eight Limbs of Yoga, you read that Yama and Niyama are the first two limbs. Yama are the general ethical principles, self-restraints for social harmony, and vows of abstention. Niyama are the codes of conduct molding individual morality and behavior, and personal disciplines.

There are five principals of Yama and five observances of Niyama listed in the Yoga Sutras II.30 and II.32 respectively.

Ahimsa is the first Yama, and as the ancient texts are designed, in a list, the first one is always the most important one. In fact, of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, Yama is listed as the first, and therefore holds the greatest importance. The most important Yama is Ahimsa, which translates as non-harming and non-violence.

We practice Ahimsa during our yoga practice by using props appropriately to create peace, to remove strain and stress, and to prevent harm while creating space and life in the body. But we can practice Ahimsa off the mat too.

B.K.S. Iyengar writes in Light on Yoga, “It is more than a negative command not to kill, for it has a wider positive meaning, love. This love embraces all creation for we are all children of the same Father – the Lord. The yogi believes that to kill or to destroy a thing or being is to insult its Creator”.

I love that. And take note, this is in regards to every thought, word and action you take. Just being a vegetarian doesn’t mean you’ve got your bases covered. Ahimsa requires being non-violent by temperament, by thought, word and deed, and not only towards others, but towards ourselves too.

Love is what it’s all about. Love is #1. Love is the most important. When B.K.S. Iyengar spoke in China two years ago, during a Q/A session a man asked, “Why sir, do we do yoga?” Guruji answered, “So that we may love one another”.

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