Centuries ago, a great sage named Patanjali created the Yoga Sutras. This ancient text is commonly referred to by Westerners, as the “Yoga Bible.” But there are many yogic texts that pre-date the sutras that are more widely used in India, such as the Upanishads, the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata.
I think it is important if you practice yoga regularly, that you should have a copy of this book, or at least know some basic information contained in it. I am making a conscious effort to take the next several weeks to discuss some basic yoga knowledge as outlined in this texts in classes this month.
What is Yoga? Patanjali’s famous definition of yoga is found in the sutras, is:
“Yogesh Chittah Vritti Nirodaha,” this is in Sanskrit. This is translated to, “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” What does that mean!? Simply put, “When the mind is still, we experience Yoga.
Yoga is Stillness of Mind. stillness of the mind is peace, self-realization. Connection with the Divine or something higher than yourself. Yoga is freedom. This freedom is referred to as Enlightenment.
In the Western world, we ran with the asana practice. Asana is yoga, but it is only a small component of yoga. If asana brings you peace, and stillness of mind…wonderful! But do know that in the sutras there are 196 sutras, or threads of knowledge on yoga, and only about 3% of them reference asana.
So, think about what you may be missing and how much more there is to explore.
Besides asana and meditation, how do we truly experience what yoga is? How do we find this peace of mind?
Patanjali laid out an 8-limb path for us to follow. This is not the only way to freedom, but this is his way.
The first step of 8 is called YAMA. Yama means to restrain from, to avoid. Non-harming, Non-lying, Non-stealing, Not wasting energy, Non-greed. That is Yama.
These are behaviors we should follow if we are on the yogic path. These lead us to self betterment, in turn we better society. We evolve. Society evolves.
Ahimsa, is the first of 5 yamas. Ahimsa can be translated to non-harming. There are many layers of meaning to all of the yamas, but Ahimsa simply put means, that our thoughts, our words, and our actions should come from a place of peace, love, generosity, and kindness.
When our thoughts are pure and we are kind to ourselves, we can only then offer that out to others.
Can you start to practice ahimsa everyday? Can you start to watch your thoughts, become aware of negativity that arises. When we notice the behavior and catch it, it will start to diminish.
What can you do to be more kind to yourself and to those around you? Notice the words that come out of your mouth? Replace the negative ones with, “Thank you,” and “How can I help you,” “What can I get you,?” Make an effort to criticize less, gossip less, and love more. Look someone in the eye while walking down the street and say good morning, even if they don’t say anything in return. Wake up in the morning and tell yourself your beautiful, smart and that you are enough.
Let’s continue to evolve as humans.
The Lokah mantra is a beautiful mantra that embodies ahimsa and invokes peace. Repeat 3 times to yourself when you wake up in the morning. This is a nice and easy way to set the tone for your day.
Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhvantu. May all living beings be happy and free and may my thoughts my words and my actions contribute to their freedom in some way.
And in the words of The Buddha:
“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.”
Ahimsa. The first Yama. I think if we can simply follow this one, everything else will fall into place.