Ashtanga yoga contains eight limbs, of which the ultimate goal is to develop and achieve self realization. The purpose of the yamas is to become true to life and reach a higher state of awareness. This awareness is meant to help free you from mental and physical suffering. With that in mind, the first of the yamas is “ahimsa”.
Ahimsa is the practice of nonviolence. While some people interpret this to be non-violence in the physical form like not murdering others or hurting ourselves - this non-violence can be even deeper. Have you ever caught yourself mentally beating yourself up over situations you’re in? Are you hard on yourself? Do you feed yourself toxic food and find yourself engulfed in bad behavior? Are you angry a lot? Jealous? Often use unkind words? All of these are seen as violence, and particularly self-harm. As human beings we can often be the most cruel to ourselves, and practicing the yama ahimsa is the first step to finding your true self.
The way to practice ahimsa is to constantly be aware. Not just in yoga practice, but also in your daily life and that includes diet and exercise. Meditation is also a great way to practice ahimsa and follow through into you ashtanga practice. Padma Mudra reminds us of the natural beauty within our souls. Sit in Lotus pose, and bring your hands into Anjali Mudra in front of the heart center. Delicately, open your hands like a lotus flower blossoming open. Keep the base of your hands together, as well as your thumbs and little fingers. Allow the index, middle, and ring fingers to gently open like a lotus.
Repeat the Mantra,
Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu,
Meaning: May beings in all realms experience the feeling state of ease.
This is a great way to begin and end any day, no matter what you are feeling.
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