Each week in the Yoga class we are spending some time looking at the philosophies of Yoga. The easiest place to start is with the Eight Limbs of Yoga as found in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. If you want to get a little bit more background have a read of the blog post here. Following on from what is taught in class each week will be a little blog post as there can be quite a lot to take in.
The first limb is that of Yama, or restraint. The idea is that we are essentially animals and have to restrain ourselves from the animalistic behaviour. Breaking Yama down to it's roots gives Ya, meaning 'which moves' and Ma, meaning 'creations nurturing principle'. So the translation of Yama given can be to 'bring forth and nurture into fruition by moving with the nurturing principle'.
There are five Yamas with the first being Ahimsa, translated as non-violence. I'm sure you don't go around punching people, so you're well on your way to being a Yogi right? Hmmmmmm, it's unfortunately not that simple. Patanjali has been translated as saying 'all violence, improper thoughts, whether done, caused to be done, or approval of, may be aroused because of anger, greed or delusion'. Improper thoughts. Uh oh! If you can tell me you've never had an improper thought, I would love to meet you. Waiting in a queue, wishing it to hurry up; that could be classed as an improper thought. Laughing at a slapstick moment when you see someone fall over; improper thought. We're stuck at the very first hurdle to being a Yogi and we've still got four Yamas to go, let alone the rest.
Ok, I'm making assumptions here. Perhaps you've never ever laughed at anything slapstick, or not had an improper thought about anyone in your life. Now what if I say this non-violence also applies to yourself and your own space? Have you ever had a negative thought in anyway about yourself? That is an act of violence to yourself. Can you whole heartedly say that you've done everything in your power to look after yourself? Has everything you've ever eaten or drunk has been for the good of your body? You can see it's getting harder already. Think about your space too. Could leaving things untidy be classed as violence to your space? (I ask whilst looking at an empty mug and plate on the floor)
It seems pretty obvious to not go around hurting people. For most of us, after our initial laughter at someone slipping over (for example), we'll go and help them. We don't mean harm. I think the more difficult and the thing to focus on is non-violence to ourselves. For me this makes sense, in a similar way to the oxygen mask on a plane. If we can get to a stage of complete non-violence to self- and I'm not suggesting that is even truly possible- then it will naturally follow that we would not have an improper thought to anyone or anything else. As Patanjali suggests that most hurtful acts are carried out because of anger, greed or delusion, we can see that those three states are an act of violence to self. For example, being angry causes yourself harm without you maybe realising. Bruce Lipton has shown with epigenetics that every cell in your body responds to your emotions. An angry state is actually harmful to your cells.
Yoga is a journey into yourself, unpicking all the layers that make you who you are. I am not suggesting in any way that you need to change anything- eventually we will get to Tantric teachings of full acceptance of self- but these are just interesting points to consider. As you go about your daily life just observe yourself and whether you are truly being non-violent to yourself. You don't have to change it, but just watch what you do without judging. This act of watching yourself might, just might, naturally create a gentle change.