Yamas: Ethical Practices of Yoga | Chapter 1: Ahimsa

Ahimsa means non-violence and compassion. Before you read this blog, take a moment to think: How might you be practicing non-compassion towards yourself? In what ways do you show compassion towards others?

Alright, now it may seem like I’m about to spew a bunch of foreign words at you and you might think ‘I am not interested in learning a foreign language today’… but hold on, there is a reason. Using the Hindu words (yama, ahimsa, etc.) gives respect to their roots, and in my eyes, it’s an honor to share this practice of yoga with so many great philosophers before us such as Patanjali and Buddha.

The first word we should cover is yama, which means regulation, control and restraint. Yamas can be thought of as ethical practices or social observances that require us to tune inward to discover our true self. Every moment and in every interaction, be it with another being or even with yourself, these social observances can be practiced. Ahimsa is the first of the five yamas.

Ahimsa means non-violence and compassion, towards yourself and others, in thought, word, and action. We would all like to think that we are non-violent, but I bet you can you think of a recent time when you had a rude or judgmental thought towards someone? It’s OK, it’s part of being human, but the awareness around the behavior is what’s important and how we grow. Ahimsa is being forgiving with others and ourselves when mistakes are made, like forgiving ourselves for having that judgmental thought. Ahimsa is letting go of that which does not serve us. It means not dwelling on the negatives and acknowledging that there is a greater flow of life that is out of our control. What we can control is our compassionate response. We practice ahimsa when we accept and make the best of our situations. It is the choice, in each and every moment, to choose the higher road that betters yourself, your friends, or even society as a whole.

On a more macro level, we can practice ahimsa in the personal choices we make when we spend money on fashion and food. For example, are you buying fast-fashion and tossing clothes quickly into landfills? Are you buying food that was grown locally, or shipped from across the country?

The next four blogs will be on the other four yamas, or yogic ethical practices; satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacarya (right use of energy) and aparigraha (non-grasping). Follow along as we explore these insightful topics.

Ahimsa Mantra: I am responsible for my thoughts, words, and actions.

Comment below and share your experiences practicing compassion in instances where you once might not have, and how that made you feel afterwards.

Interested in doing some free yoga? Check out my latest class!

My story on yoga | Why I do yoga and why you should too

My first blog, Yoga 101, lays the foundation that yoga is more than a physical practice and actually a way of being. Although I’ve been practicing yoga for 10 years, I did not know about the ethics of yoga until until about 2 years ago. Before diving into the deep and wide array of yoga topics and integrations into daily life, I thought it best to introduce myself. My name is Kenia, I’m a yoga teacher, engineer, small business-developer, Reno-ite, and lover of life.

My yoga practice started in high school when a P.E. teacher (Hi, Mr. Melcher) threw in a yoga tape during class. It was slow. It was boring. And I didn’t understand the point. In college I chose (lord knows why) geological engineering for my bachelor’s degree. I was pushing myself to make perfect grades, and needed healthy outlets to balance the all-nighters spent at the DeLaMare Library. On campus there were these posters about reducing stress through practicing yoga, so I started to attend the free yoga classes at Lombardi. It took me years to recognize the benefits of yoga that extended beyond physical. My yoga practice continued, as well as my sky-high stress levels and anxiety, through college and came with me on my two year stint moving and working around the Bay-Area, CA.

And then one day I had a complete nervous breakdown, quit my job from PG&E and moved home to Reno. I had worked in Corporate America for exactly 2 years and 2 days before I knew I needed to make major changes in my life. I was feeling pretty down in the dumps, unsure what I wanted to do with my life, jobless, and scared when I moved home to Reno. The only constant in my life at the time was yoga. One day without realizing it, I made a comment to my boyfriend at the time, “teaching yoga would be my dream” and it was actually him who got me into Reno’s best 200-hour yoga teacher training. This is where my real yoga journey began.

The 200-hour yoga teacher training was a much more profound experience than I ever thought it would be. It spanned the course of 5 months and during that time I experienced deep, intense awakenings and long periods of blissful rest. Like shedding an old layer and growing into new skin. In a very cheesy but truthful way, it changed my life. Through yoga I found peace my with my past, focus for my future, and awareness in the presence. I always loved teaching and tutoring in school, so the translation to teaching yoga at The Studio was natural. I’ve been teaching there consistently for the past two years. I am eternally grateful for this space as it allows me to help others on their own journey to self-discovery, self-knowledge and wisdom.

Now that you know me, follow along on my blog as I break down all things yoga, the yoga sutras, yoga philosophy and much much more. Up next: Ahimsa, Non-Violence and Compassion.

Comment below and tell me: What is your experience with yoga? How many years have you been practicing and what is the difference between when you started and now?

Yoga 101

A Yoga Blog by Kenia

Most people think yoga is about stretching their muscles and bodies into weird shapes on a yoga mat, and they aren’t totally wrong. While yoga is an incredible tool to help us tune in with out own unique bodies, it is not just a physical practice. In fact, ‘yoga asana,’ the physical practice of yoga, is considered to be only 1 of the 8 limbs of yoga. There are 7 other limbs of yoga: the 5 moral restraints, the 5 observances, mindful breathing, tuning inward, concentration, meditation, and pure bliss.

Yoga is a 24/7 practice. Yoga is a way of being. Yoga is life. Yoga is God. Yoga is Universe and our connection to it. Yoga is mindfulness; interpersonal and intrapersonal. Yoga is meditation. Yoga is gratitude, attitude and acceptance. Yoga is about tuning in with the undeniable flow of life and allows us to know our true beings, passions, purpose within. After all, as Gretchin Rubin says, “happiness is self-knowledge.”

I remind my students at the end of class to “take yoga off the mat with them into the other 23 hours of the day.” For something once thought to be only a physical practice in the Western World, how can I tell students to take yoga off the mat? Follow me in this blog and you will learn about all the ways that a yoga practice can improve every aspect of your life and well-being. You are truly a magical force of nature – now lets tap in to your own potential.

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