The Mirror

I haven’t been a nice person lately…to myself anyway, possibly others.
There are 8 limbs of yoga: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi.
The yamas generally mean abstinence or restraint and the niyamas have more to do with observance.  Together the yamas and the niyamas form a sort of code of conduct for yogis, similar to the 10 commandments for Christians.
The first yama is ahimsa: non-harm or non-violence.
Yoga is a mirror
In yoga, we attempt to bring our practice from the mat into the real world. We allow the experience on the mat to be a mirror to our experiences off the mat.
Ahimsa is not harming your own body for the sake of perfecting a pose i.e. not pushing your knee when it’s in pain.  Yet, as with everything in yoga, it’s much more than the physical practice of not being violent.  As powerful beings we are able to cause much harm by our words i.e. bullying.  Even our thoughts can cause pain and violence, especially to ourselves.
In yoga we always start right from where we are.  Ahimsa teaches that even right now, from where I am sitting in my chair writing this I can choose to practice or not practice ahimsa.    If I slouch I am harming my future self.  Taking it a step further I could choose the way of ahimsa by having compassion for myself, not judging my failures and treating myself with kindness especially in my thoughts.  When I compare myself to others it harms me.  When I am critical of others it is also self-harming – it is but a mirror to how I think of myself.
When we are trying to change habits, like learning not to slouch or think violent thoughts about ourselves it is helpful to remember that each moment is one we’ve never lived before.  Right now is a fresh moment to start practicing.
Ahimsa is important because we must have compassion for ourselves before we are able to have compassion for others.  The same goes for ahimsa, if you can’t practice ahimsa in relation to yourself, you cannot practice it off the mat or in relation to others.
Don’t we all want to be a little kinder and nicer, starting today?

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