In the definitive yogic text, the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali shares several elements that an aspiring Yogini needs to become aware of and work with. Early on in the text, he offers the definition of yoga, what happens when the definition occurs and what happens when you don’t experience the union, as well as many other important Yogic teachings. One of the many gifts Shri Patanjali offers comes in the Sadhana-Padah which is his Ashtanga Yoga System. His system consists of 8 limbs that are: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi. Yama, the first limb of the Ashtanga Yoga System, reflects the foundational aspect of the Ashtanga path. The word Yama derives from the Sanskrit root √yam, to restrain, to pull in. The Yama are five and represent ways the individual will pull in towards her center and live in a more restrained or inward manner. It is to be noted that by placing Yama as the first limb in his Ashtanga Yoga System, Patanjali is saying that the Yama are the foundational elements upon which you will grow your whole practice.
The Yama, in order, are five: Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacarya, Aparigraha. The first among the Yama is Ahimsa which derives from the Sanskrit root √hims, meaning to harm, to hit. In Sanskrit, when you put a short ‘a’ in front of a noun, you negate its meaning. Thus, a + √hims means to not hit or not harm. Ahimsa means non-violence or harmony and as the first Yama represents the primary element that Lord Patanjali wants a student to work with in both her character and life.
At this point, you may ask, how do I practically work with Ahimsa? Firstly, simply consider the concept of non-violence. Let your mind really energize on this idea. When you consider Ahimsa, it will naturally broaden the scope of your thinking. You’ll begin to see how everything is interconnected like a network. See how your actions and choices within that network sit with you. Pay attention, do you look at your actions and move defensive and rebel against what you perceive? Or do you feel at ease with it? Instead of judging your reaction become aware of it and work with yourself in it to gain greater clarity. Ask yourself how do my choices affect others? Consider bringing a vegan diet into your life? If that feels daunting, start with two to three days a week and expand from there. Do something kind for a human or animal. And most importantly, feel how being in harmony with yourself and others stops a pull on your prana and allows you to let your inner prana accumulate. In time, with focus and devotion that build of inner prana will transform into the feeling of deep peace within you.
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