The Yoga Sutras are one of the ancient documents that guides the philosophy of yoga. “There’s yoga philosophy?” you might ask. “There’s more to yoga than getting my foot behind my head?” YES. There’s so much more. I love the Sutras but like any ancient writing we have to determine what is relevant to our lives today and what is oceans away from what we need.
Ahimsa is the first (and possibly most important) of the Sutras. I think of this one as “first do no harm.” Seems particularly relevant at this time in history. Not only are we dealing with a pandemic (which feels like a slow burning forest fire right now, tiresome yet deadly) but we are also dealing with the outcome of harm that has been placed on our BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) community for years. The question is, how do we continue on the path of Ahimsa in the present day? How do we keep from perpetuating harm?
Ahimsa begins with ourselves. Not harming ourselves. Sometimes we think and speak not so nice things about ourselves. We all do it. We try to burn ourselves down from the inside, wallowing in every negative thought. But would we think these thoughts about our loved ones? We certainly NEVER say those things to our loved ones yet we it feels oddly ordinary to do it to ourselves.
Ahimsa means looking at yourself as a loved one. You are your greatest love! That may feel strange at first because our conditioning has taught us otherwise. We are taught to look outside of ourselves for love. We are taught that it is selfish to do kind things for ourselves first. We are thought that a good person is always selfless and gives to others first. But when we do this we are depleting ourselves.
We’ve all heard the phrase “giving from an empty cup.” When we take care and love ourselves first then we are giving from the overflow not trying to scrap the bottom of a desert dry well to bring water to a thirsty friend. When our cup is always full, we are absolutely overflowing with an ocean of love to give. This is the truth and very far from what our culture has taught us.
If we all began to love and care for ourselves more this world might look very different. We might not see the gaping red-sea divide that exists in our society today. Deborah Adele (author and yoga teacher) has this to say:
“Ultimately we have just one moral duty:
to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves,
more and more peace,
and to reflect it towards others.
And the more peace there is in us,
the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.”
Deborah Adele, Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice
The best part is that taking care of ourselves can be fun! When we practice yoga together (virtually and in-person) then we feel better. We are taking care of ourselves, together. I love how our yoga community supports each other and feel very grateful for ya’ll. We get to practice Ahimsa together every day!