Ahimsa and Ashtanga Yoga
Ashtanga Yoga: one eighth asana (the positions we put the body in) and not necessarily series one through six. What? Clap, get up and dance. Yoga is not just an Indian workout. It’s a special way to live. We’ll get to asana, don’t worry, it’s number three of this eight branched path.
Eight Limbs of Ashtanga
Ashtanga translates to “eight limbs” or “eight components.” Ashta or eight. Anga or limb. Got that? Nice, keep following now. If asana is the third what’s the first? What’s the second? Whoa, slowly, slowly.
Start with the first limb, Yama. Our moral duty to existence, Yama. Yama, a practice achievable by everyone. Status, creed, class, time, physical ability, place does not factor into one’s ability to accomplish the Yamas. Yes, Yamas. There are five of them according to Patanjali. Five restraints. Our ability to rein ourselves in. Control, going back to how nature wants us, good humans. Morals you could call them. Those things we all have and should not be blind to. Law built into existence to keep things from crumbling apart. Ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, aparigraha: the five Yamas. Start at the beginning. Smile, these are great.
What is Ahimsa?
Ahimsa! Non-harming, don’t harm. The word ahimsa breaks down into “himsa” which means harm; violence; kill, and “a” which stands for not. Hence not violence, not harm, not kill or non-violence. Still with me? Feel free to go back. It’s okay.
Ahimsa teaches not to harm others, animals, Earth, yourself. No harm through action and thought. Murder harms but this philosophy should be contemplated deeper. Effort must be put forth on contemplation and understanding of what it means.
Non-harming? Don’t kill; got that.
But I live in the cold wilds of the north and sometimes I must hunt to have food. Good, don’t let yourself starve if you can help it. Respect that which helps you survive. No violence, but care. Are your actions truly justified?
Think, don’t lie to yourself, Satya (truth) — we’ll get to that later. Yoga knows you must live, and to live certain actions must be taken. Only through living can the cycle of suffering end. Live and learn. Live and learn. Next life different actions can be taken. Same goes with thought. Those cruel words in your head, did they pop up from unjustified prejudices, or do anger, rajasic and tamasic gunas, need control? Hateful thought burns away at the body just like drinking cola at every meal. A slow steady destruction that can be stopped. Always time to help yourself.
Help? Yeah, help. Helping is not harming. In fact, it is the opposite. Ahimsa: to help, protect, keep safe. Yes, cause no harm and help those in need. The struggle of life is real but with help that weight becomes lighter. Everyone carries this burden. Not one single person, but all existence, has the weight of existing pressing down on them. All help distribute the weight evenly. No criticism for what might have happened. My shoulder is here to bear some of the weight. Their shoulder is here. Its shoulder is here. Her shoulder is here. His shoulder is here. We are all here. Ahimsa, keep us safe.
Next time: Satya