When we study yoga we start with Ahimsha because it relates to all of the other yamas.
We practice Asteya (non-stealing) on the mat, not stealing from or compromising one part of the body or quality of the breath to express an asana - which would do harm. We might then think about parts of our life out of balance, where might we be stealing from? What might we be stealing in our relationships?
Asteya is a big one for me personally as I have to be careful to not 'steal' too much home life for teaching, practicing and promoting yoga for wellbeing in our community - before I take something else on I reflect on asteya. Overwork is one of my Samskaras - one of the grooves of habit I can quickly fall into and the reason I decided to dedicate myself to yoga. Asteya helps me to keep that my biggest samskara in check.
We practice Satya (honesty) on our mat, being honest about where we can go with steadiness and ease and we take this off the mat too. Honesty in our actions, words and thoughts to ourselves and to others - because dishonesty would cause harm, but we also want to reflect back on the principle of ahimsha so that we don't use satya in a way that will cause harm.
We practice Aparigraha (greedlessness, or non-grasping) learning to take only what is truly necessary and no more and to let it go when we no longer need it. This is a big one on the mat, we want to be motivated to explore tha asana and the body and mind but we need to balance this with non-grasping, are we reaching too far, are we obsessing about the next asana? When we focus on 'more' we can sacrifice what is here - in this moment - which is the only place that life is. Grasping and attachment cause suffering because everything is temporary and everything must pass, if we are so attached we will suffer when that which we are attached to is no more.
Brahmacharya sometimes interpreted as celibacy, but more often as wise use of energy and fidelity. Wise of energy is of course particularly apt on the mat, we don't want to deplete our energy early in the practice, nor do we want to deplete our energy for the day and this can help guide the structure of our days off the mat too. This also helps me to ensure I'm not depleting my energy in yoga outreach work depleting my energy for my practice, teaching or homelife.
All of this has the potential to help us to grow and change. This is why we come to the mat even (especially) when life is hardest, because we know that the mat is a place of reflection, strength, flexibility and growth.
When we truly practice yoga we change.
The asana are a route into the psychology of the practice. We practice this psychology through our bodies because we experience life through our bodies and what we embody we are more likely to understand. So we practice ahimsha (non-harming) on our mats, reflect on how else we can practice non harming of our bodies and then our minds and the bodies and minds of others.
We practice asteya (non-stealing) on the mat, not stealing from or compromising one part of the body or quality of the breath to express an asana. We might then think about parts of our life out of balance, where might we be stealing from? What might we be stealing in our relationships?
We start to see through the illusion of separation and understand that we only ever see part of a story and that not everything is about us and that we almost always have a choice.
All of this helps us to grow and change. This is why we come to the mat even (especially) when life is hardest, because we know that the mat is a place of reflection, strength, flexibility and growth.
|Listening Truthfully to Understand |
The importance of satya & the illusion of separation are two key yoga teachings that are very relevant right now.
In recent years it seems increasingly there’s a very strong illusion of separation created by lack of quietly and truthfully paying attention. Instead of paying attention and seeking truth we are witnessing a lot of people shouting and very few people listening.
We are witnessing people entrenched in their views, convinced they are right and others are wrong, desperate to prove to others their own rightness, convinced that the 'other' wants to cause harm to community, fellow humans and the planet.
This is all experienced as noisy conflict and division - yet we know that yoga teaches us that separation is an illusion.
So how can we see through this illusion and find our interconnectedness?
How can we heal and work together?
What does our yoga teach us?
Yoga teaches us that we are not our ego, teaches us discernment so that we are able to step outside the 'I-ness" the ego. Once we are aware of this we can strengthen our resolve to listen to learn and not to protect the ego by being 'right'.
Next we can look at 'Satya' - truthfulness, are we being honest with our beliefs about others?
Satya is a yama and therefore often presented as restraint: about slowing down, filtering, carefully considering, not jumping to our own stories.
How about we ask if WE TRUTHFULLY KNOW that our perceptions of those we disagree with are really true?
How about we ask if WE TRUTHFULLY KNOW whether there really are so many people who actively want to cause harm to others?
How about we slow down, have open eyes, ears, hearts and minds
Pay attention to what we truthfully see and hear
Pay attention to our bias, assumptions and our motives
Pay attention to seeking to learn and understand
To especially seek to understand those who may hold views and have experiences different from our own
When we combine this with the knowledge that we are all interdependent, inseparable from the nature we are part of, we can see that perhaps people who hold views different from our own also want happy, healthy, fair communities and a planet that is healthy and can sustain all life.
If we truthfully listen from a place of love, a place of knowing that separation is an illusion and that human motivations are based on fear or love we can perhaps start to realise that perhaps those with different views have different information? Or different experiences? Or different understandings?
If we listen from a place of understanding that we all want a happier, healthier world and we only differ in how we think we can best achieve that, then we can start to work together to heal, to build a more compassionate future.
How do we do this? Yoga teaches us to pay attention to it all, to pause, be quiet, to watch our own expectations, assumptions, bias and to come from a place of love
Be open to what we don’t expect.