2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Practicing non-violence

Published: March 11, 2014, 5:01 pm, by Jen Mulson

Every once in awhile, I feel inspired to theme a class around ahimsa.

For those who think that sounds like a foreign language, well, guess what? It is. It’s the Sanskrit word for non-violence, and it’s the first of the yamas in yoga.

The yamas, also known as the moral and ethical observances, are the first limb of Patanjali’s yoga sutras. Patanjali is the man who wrote them at least 1,700 years ago, according to an article on the Yoga Journal website.

This might surprise those who think yoga is only the postures you typically practice in a class. No, friends, there are eight limbs to the practice. The warriors and trees comprise the third limb of yoga, the asana.

When I talk about ahimsa and non-violence, I’m not really talking about avoiding going around and beating people up. That, to me, seems like a given. I like to think more about the nature of our thoughts. Are they violent? And who are they violent toward? Yourself? Others?

I suspect that yoga students might have a tendency to say violent words to themselves during a class, particularly when a pose gets challenging or a limb won’t go in quite the direction he or she hoped for.

And that’s where we can start the practice of ahimsa. I think awareness of the thoughts is the first step. From there, we can choose to not follow the thought and just let it go.