Why is it important to act harmlessly?

Yoga is beyond physical postures - in fact, physical postures are just a modern, very new (around 100 years old) tool with which we can delve deeper into ourselves and get to the true meaning of yoga.

Yamas and Niyamas, often referred to as "moral codes" or ways of "right living", are the foundation of our entire practice and adhering to these ethics as we progress along the yogic path means that we are always mindful of every action and therefore cultivate a more present and conscious state of being.

Today I want to talk about one of the most important aspects of yoga – Ahimsa. Ahimsa is the first of the five Yamas and means non-violence – in all aspects of life. When we act from Ahimsa it means not harming others, ourselves or nature; we don't think negatively about others or ourselves; and make sure that what we do and how we do it is consistent and harmless.

Sutra 2:35 reveals: "In the presence of one who is firmly established in non-violence, all hostilities cease". This means that those who do not cause harm, emit "harmonious vibrations", encourage others to live peacefully.

How do I practice ahimsa in my life? I don't push myself over the edge in my physical asana practice; of course I challenge myself to grow, and of course it's often uncomfortable, but I don't push myself to the point of pain and self-harm. I try to take care of my body with healthy food.

Ahimsa means not harming other living beings, and for that reason I do not eat animals, nor do I eat any products where living beings have been exploited, tortured or killed. Even if we don't kill the animal with our own hands, paying someone else to do it for us is supporting violence. When we truly live yoga, we cannot support the industry of killing and torturing millions of animals a day, it becomes clear to us that this is wrong.

The most difficult part of the Ahimsa life is non-violence in the mind. Not being physically violent can be achieved quite easily, but we usually struggle to control our thoughts. Our thoughts play an important role in our overall well-being. Perhaps you take good care of your health in several areas: you eat well, exercise a lot, drink green drinks and take the necessary supplements, do everything "right". But if your thoughts are still harmful, violent, negative, it undermines all your efforts in other areas.

Ahimsa means paying attention to your thoughts. When we think negatively, we send messages through the body that cause a flight or fight response, in which the body secretes cortisol (the "stress hormone"). This lowers the immune system, making us more susceptible to disease.

It's not just about thinking about yourself. Jealousy, judgment, anger and resentment – while directed at someone else – come back to bite us, making us feel bad too. On the other hand, nonviolent loving thoughts cause the release of dopamine (the feel-good hormone). This strengthens the immune system and can actually heal us from illness.

Pay attention to your actions and thoughts. Be kind to yourself and others, we are all connected.


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