There is a Sanskrit term called “ahimsa.” Ahimsa is one of the guiding principles and fundamental building blocks in Yoga that indicates to us how to deal with the world around us, and with ourselves. The literal meaning is to be non harming, non violent, to have a special consideration and compassion towards all living things, and equally importantly, towards yourself. In the most basic terms, on your mat, it means listening to your body and not doing anything that might hurt you. However ahimsa doesn’t begin and end with violent actions. It states that we should strive not to have negative or harmful thoughts either, about ourselves or others around us.
Let’s be honest. Holding ourselves back from hurting or harming another living being is a lot easier than holding ourselves back from negative, hurtful thoughts. I mean really … Isn’t that impossible? If it’s not impossible, then it’s just plain difficult. I mean … No negative thoughts? No self-doubt? No self-criticism? No anger/judgement/disputes with any one around us?
There’s a Sanskrit mantra that I love and it goes as follows: “lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu.”
Loosely translated, it means “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may my thoughts and my actions contribute in some way to their freedom and their happiness.”
Friends, this is Yoga. This, is what I think of when I practice Yoga and this, is what I attempt to share with clients.
In today’s Instagram society, Yoga has become about sexy bodies doing acrobatic poses on a beach or in a jungle. I’m not saying that having a healthy, strong, beautiful body isn’t something to work towards. However what I attempt in my yoga classes, is to have all Yogis leave their mats feeling beautiful, feeling strong, and feeling healthy. Every single one of them. That is the gift I’d like them to find in their practice.
If gaining flexibility, and building strength is what brings you to Yoga, great! But in general, that’s not why people stay with yoga. You can get the physical strength from many different activities, but the combination of the physical practice (Asana) with the inner peace and teachings of love and compassion and strength and community, come only from the practice of Yoga.
You’ve heard these before:
Watch your thoughts, because your thoughts become words, and your words become actions.
For every action, there’s a reaction.
Whatever you put out there, will somehow come back to you.
It’s all stemming from the same premise. If we can begin with love for ourselves, fill our minds and hearts with goodness, then share all of these with others around us, we will be contributing not only to our own sense of well-being, but to the well-being of all living things.
This is “lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu.” If you’d like to hear one version of this mantra, I invite you to listen here.
We’re all in this together.