Ahimsa in Asana and life

The practice of finding self love, acceptance and freedom is not all about Yogasana!

Asana, only 1/8 of our practice, but why are we so obsessed with advancing in physical form. If we take this back a step and reflect on the wisdom offered in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra’s, this may well have you thinking about abandoning your desire to reach the King of all asana’s.

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, describes “limbs” of yoga which are universal in being – they transcend gender, age, status, physicality. They include such external disciplines (Yamas, 5 moral restraints) which guide our actions and in a way to “yoke” ourselves in relation to the world. This is done with a mindset without adding suffering to us or others.  Ahimsa, is one of the sacred Yamas, loosely translated as doing no harm, a commitment to non harming or in a positive way, practicing non violence  with our minds and our bodies. Practicing  Ahimsa also generates a powerful external affect – if we think in terms of behaviors such as anger, aggression or violence, by thinking and feeling and practicing ahimsa in daily life, we in turn make it safe for people to “put down their weapons” and defenses and change their behavior, albeit sometimes subtle, it’s like acknowledging that using fuel will only ignite further the flame. Actions like simple acts of kindness, expressing love, being love, doing love, not only emobilises ones personal actions which threaten us, but returns our energy, and the energy of those around us to a state of peace, joy and calm.

So what’s the link between Ahimsa and “Yoga” asana. The diagram below illustrates beautifully, and in union with our self, that Yoga as a holistic practice. You will see with insight and new found aware that posture, or asana, is the bodily aspect of Patanjali’s holistic system, so why does it feel like it is the only path to freedom in (yoga) in the west?. To say we “do” yoga, for many actually without even realising it, they probably mean Asana. Society in general is very attracted to the idea of physically, shape, beauty measured by how we look, and in some of the Yoga community, how advanced we are in our physical practice defines personal power and success of “doing” Yoga.

Yet if we take a moment to reflect on the wisdom of Patanjali, he refers to

“only the postures suitable for prolonged immobility…strenuous, asymmetrical, intense or ungrounded attitudes of the body would be unsuitable, since they tend to agitate the mind and cause fatigue….”  

And  “Asana, traditionally refers to a seat or cushion uses to support the body” .

Put simply he says, one should do less to be more as effortlessness installs a unique sense of freedom. Don’t get me wrong, HATHA asana is beautiful and when used to prepare the body for strength,openness and finally stillness this state of mindful awareness enables us to experience and recognise many things about ourselves –  our body mind connection, our emotions, our notions of self , our physical condition, our length, our strength, our open or tight spots physically. Metaphysically, we learn that the cause of “tightness” of a symptom of something deeper that what we experience in Asana. For example, as stilling deepens, it is sometimes so powerful to make skilled adjustments in the body to utilise its prana, for example by responding occasionally to taking our bodies vertically will actually allow effortless to deepen, like in say Sirasana (Headstand) or Ardha Mukha Savasana, (Downward Dog).

You can still be effortless, in advancing asana practice, but it should be practiced without attachment, or wanting to or grasping at pleasure, or feeling pressure to be seen to do, or to say “I invert” or “I bend” or “I arm balance”.  The basis of ahimsa, in Asana is to listen to your body, love your body, get out of the way from your own ego which, if left unchecked, may cause you to push beyond your edge – that isn’t only physically destructive as it can cause emotional (feelings of not being worthy, or “good enough”) and physical injury, but also hurtful to your soul and energy balance. Practicinsg Ahimsa also enables the power within you to rise, as you begin to catch yourself earlier in the “self deprivation” or “competitive personal” process. The space  you create with cultivating ahimsa, not only in the mind, but in the body through the breathe, movement, turning inward, concentration, and a complete state of meditative awareness is to me, the true union of Ahimsa in Yoga and daily life.

Much love,




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