Ahimsa (non violence) is the first step of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga Path.
Looking back a few years ago, I must say that I am an extremely different person now, thankfully for the better. There were extremely dark periods in my life. To name a few, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, had a weak anemic body, met countless of psychologists and psychiatrists, and was whizzed in and out of hospitals in the past years. Sometimes I like to imagine that these events were a figment of my imagination but it suffices to say that I am extremely thankful to be out of the cycle. Naturally, there are days where I backslide, some more than others, but I try to remember that we are, after all, a work in progress.
I wish I could describe exactly how yoga has helped me get to where I am today – healthy, more vibrant and with an attitude that values ahimsa, at least a lot more than I did before. What I know, is that I’ve learnt to be less reactive to both the negative thoughts I have towards myself as well as those that emerge from external sources. The yoga sutras tell us that a regular practice of yoga and meditation can help sharpen the intellect to a point where it becomes easier to identify unwanted/ destructive situations/ thoughts, be aware of them, and still resist the temptation to react to them in a knee-jerk manner.
Perhaps, this post can be seen as a reminder for all of us cultivate ahimsa in our practices, our thoughts and daily lives. For most of us living in the modern world, we tend to be caught up in the flurry of things, without observing ourselves in interactions with others and without noticing our thoughts and intentions. Before we can practice ahimsa with others, begin first with yourself. Only then can we expand this value of ahimsa outwards to others and really understand why ahimsa is the spontaneous expression of the highest form of love – an unconditional positive regard for everyone and everything.
“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”
– Lao Tzu