Yama, the first of the eight limbs of yoga, is subdivided into the practice of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, self-restraint and non-greed.
Like a personal code of conduct, yamas are guidelines to keep us practitioners on a path of continual contemplation, growth and spiritual evolution.
They deal with common issues many of us can relate to, you don’t need to practice yoga to understand them. Even if we are yoga practitioners, whether we follow the eight limbs or not is totally up to us as individuals. As much as we are encouraged to see the eight limbs as a framework for effective yoga practice, we are also advised not to adeah to rules. In the Hatha Yoga Pradapika we are told
“Swatmarama also advises “not to adhere to rules”. Yama and niyama are rules, and to an extent they are also moral codes. Initially, it is not essential to practise these and it should not be thought that you cannot succeed without them. The yama and niyama have been given as guidelines to keep a sadhaka (practitioner) on the path”. Swami Muktibodhananda, Chapter 1, Verse 16 (i & ii).
It is important to explore these limbs from our own consciousness and live from a place of true authenticity. I had heard a lot about the eight limbs, and later explored them during my teacher training. So when I started having problems with my sciatic nerve last year, and as I am now 15 weeks pregnant, I wanted to reflect a bit deeper.
Putting on our own oxygen mask first.
Ahimsa recognises our actions, words and thoughts can cause pain. To ourselves and all creatures. It asks us to live with self control and awareness of the impact we may have on others. The Verse as quoted above goes on to say
“if you harm another person intentionally, and you lose control of your mind and actions, you are creating an imbalance in yourself. Violence means moving away from your true nature; ahimsa means coming closer to the pure spirit.”
By putting on our own oxygen-mask first we are able to cope better with life, stay passive in difficult situations, and help those around us. By this I mean practicing non-violence in our words, thoughts, and actions towards ourselves first. Our non-harming vibrations will then be strong and true, and permeate the lives of those around us all the better. By committing to ourselves first, we can truly commit to and serve others, to the divine in all things.
Practice non-violence towards ourselves.
When we allow ourselves to work from wherever we are each day, and honour that, we honour ourselves on a deep and committed level. If our energy is low, we are stressed, or upset, we can embrace the impact this has on our practice, and learn from stepping into where is truly right for us in each moment.