Yoga is a practise, not a perfect.
There are 8 limbs of yoga involving different methods of meditation, different postures, breath work, and a moral and ethical code for how to live in peace with the self and society. Here is a brief definition of the first two limbs.
The first limb is the Yamas (translated as reigning in or bridle): a moral code for how to live peacefully in society and the self through restraint. The second limb is the Niyamas: a moral code for how to live peacefully in society and the self by following specific observances and practices. Essentially the Yamas and Niyamas are similar to the Christian and Jewish 10 Commandments, the 5 daily meditations of Reiki, and the moral codes of other religious philosophies.
The first Yama of the first limb of yoga is Ahimsa and proceeds all other practices and Yamas. Ahimsa is the Sanskrit word for non-violence "A"- being not and "-himsa" being violent. It is the first Yama of the first limb for a very specific reason- all other practices of the 8 limbs fail when it is not observed. This means that all other Yamas and Niyamas must first observe Ahimsa before being practised as well.
Other Yamas include Satya (truth), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmicharya (moderating the senses), Aparigraha (non-possessiveness).
So what happens when Ahimsa is not followed prior to the other Yamas?
Truth can be spoken but restrained when it hurts others. Non-stealing that doesn't embrace Ahimsa first can mean not removing the things that harm others or yourself. Brahmicharya that does not honour Ahimsa can mean that you do not allow your senses to reveal the need for compassion towards others. Non-possessiveness can be harmful if it means that you do not take responsibility for your waste such as garbage or energy consumption.
Ahimsa is the essence of every practice and excludes any thought, non-verbal, verbal, physical action or intention originating or causing harm to any creature, thing, or person including the self.
When Ahimsa is not practised, relationship is lost.
Forcing a perspective or view upon an entire populous does not account for the variety in experience. Having the best of intentions does not ensure that negative impacts are not felt. Closing the self off from the experience of others, and forcing our perspective, prevents us from being accountable for our actions and the resulting impacts experienced by others.
And so, return to Ahimsa.
Ahimsa rebuilds connection. Ahimsa teaches us that relationship originates from non-violence. Ahimsa allows us to exist peacefully with ourselves and with others. Ahimsa helps others understand and empathize with our perspective. Ahimsa promotes love and compassion and ensures the preservation of life.
Ahimsa shows us the despair of the person yelling "Freedom!" and their hopes of waking us all up. Ahimsa shows us the marginalization of the targeted BIPOC and LGBQT2+ communities. Ahimsa reveals the reasons behind people's decisions that are out of alignment with our own. Ahimsa shows us the legitimate fear of the immunocompromised and marginalized and what we will all lose should their voices not be heard. Ahimsa means freedom for all, regardless of ethnicity, religion, financial status, abilities, gender and sexual orientation. Ahimsa helps us look beyond the chaos and unrest to the underlying issues of mental health, loss of community, exclusion, loss of life, and financial deprivation.
Ahimsa is having a moral code that keeps us all safe and welcomes opposing perspectives from a place of love.
How will you move forward and will you embrace Ahimsa with not only your yoga practice but your life's journey?