Ahimsa / Non-Harming

In preparation for Jeff Perlman’s upcoming “The Eight Limbs of Yoga” workshop (6/4) at Goorus, we thought it might be a good idea to briefly touch on the eight limbs.

The yogic journey, as defined by Patanjali* is an eight-fold path. The eight limbs act as guidelines for how to live a healthy and meaningful life, tuned into one’s own purpose and spiritual nature. The eight limbs of yoga are:

1.    Yamas:  Universal codes of behavior/morality

2.    Niyamas:  Personal observances

3.    Asanas:  Physical postures/poses

4.    Pranayama:  Breath control/exercises

5.    Pratyahara:  Control of the senses

6.    Dharana: Concentration

7.    Dhyana:  Devotion/meditation

8.    Samadhi:  Bliss/union with the divine

Yamas create the framework of a universal society of order and fairness, of basic tenets of property and contracts.  The first of the Yamas is Ahimsa.  Ahimsa is non-violence, non-harming and compassion.

We can practice Ahimsa in yoga by:

·      Being kind to ourselves during our yoga class or practice—using props, taking variations, and resting when needing to do so.

·      Honoring what is happening in your body today, not yesterday or tomorrow.

·      Noticing and catching self-criticism.

·      Noticing and catching judgment and negative thoughts about others.

·      Making others feel comfortable and safe—we were all new to yoga once.

We can practice Ahimsa in life by:

·      Not harming others (humans, plants and animals)—no hitting, pushing, kicking, etc. (remember what you learned in Kindergarten?)

·      Being mindful of how our words, actions, and energy affect others.

Sometimes in yoga class, you will hear the following beautiful chant:

lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu

Translated into English from the Sanskrit, the chant means:

“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may my thoughts and my actions somehow contribute to that freedom for all.”

The Buddha said, “The thought manifests as the word; the word manifests as the deed; the deed develops into habit; and habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care, and let it spring from love born out of concern for all beings… As the shadow follows the body, as we think, so we become.”

Finally, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is an example of a life guided by Ahimsa.  You can learn more about King here: http://www.thekingcenter.org/about-dr-king.  Enjoy!

*the ancient sage said to have authored the Yoga Sutras, a foundational text of yoga

Gretchen Lightfoot

A Yoga Alliance RYT-500, Gretchen trained with Carmen Fitzgibbon, Thomas Taubman, and Gigi Snyder of YogaWorks in Los Angeles. Gretchen’s teaching experience includes YogaWorks, Neutrogena, Fancy Feet Dance Studio, the Palisades Library, the Palisades Rec Center, and one-on-one work with a number of private clients throughout LA.

Gretchen’s classes vary in style. Her weekday morning classes run from a balanced, all-level flow to a chilled-out yin practice, to an Iyengar-style wall practice. Sunday morning flow tends to be a little more energetic (expect music). Regardless of the style, Gretchen encourages practitioners to listen to their bodies and modify where needed.