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Yamas: Ahimsa

Yamas: Ahimsa

As I stated in my last blog, I will be writing about the Eight Limbs of Yoga. The first limb is that Yamas. Essentially rules, morals to live by.

Ahimsa is the first rule. I don’t like saying rule… moral compass you should probably attempt to abide by. Recommended virtues… I kind of like that.

Ahimsa. Non-harming. When I first read that I thought, okay, I can do this. Don’t kill bugs, don’t do something that would harm another being. Don’t hurt anyone. Compassion for all beings.

Isn’t that all easier said than done?

Don’t kill bugs. I kill bugs all the time. Usually not on purpose. Bugs fly in front of my car. I’m killing them. Gnats fly around my head and I swat at them. Since they’re tiny they end up on the flat end of a surface squashed. So I try not to kill bugs, but it happens.

Don’t do anything to harm another being. Okay, well, I can try to do that by being as genuinely nice as possible. But is that too much? How sincere am I? Be nice. I can do that. What about when someone cuts me off in traffic? OOOH. Well, I guess cussing in my own car isn’t doing the other person any harm, right?! Maybe.

Since the Sutras are left open to a little bit of interpretation, I guess one could say that it’s how you feel. As a Social Worker, I was taught to meet the client where they are at. If someone is coming off the streets looking for housing for the night and I decide that they should stop doing heroin and start talking to them about addiction, I’m going to lose them completely. So I need to find them housing for the night. And hopefully they come back and eventually will be ready to discuss their addiction. So where are you at?

Compassion. Compassion for all beings. Oh, how I wouldn’t mind saying everything I think. But I don’t. And it’s hard. I’m not the most tactful person. It’s something I’ve had to work on. I’ve learned though that saying everything I think hurts other people.

I’m a pescetarian which means the only animal I eat is fish. I am killing and eating fish. Well, I don’t physically kill them, but because I eat them people fish and kill them. So does Ahimsa teach us to not eat other beings? That’s up to you. Maybe Ahimsa is telling you to eat that beef, but to recognize the cow’s life. To acknowledge and thank the being for giving you protein and sustain your life.

Maybe Ahimsa means giving back in some way for things you’ve done that you know are harmful. Driving for instance. We know it’s harmful to the Earth, but there are different ways to give back: plant trees, clean up trash, donate to environmental organizations.

Isn’t that what Yoga is about? Meeting you where you’re at. Do you want to step on your mat today or is your yoga for the day the smiling at a stranger or neighbor? Bring Ahimsa into your practice. Into your daily life. Figure out how you can have compassion for all beings. Eventually, other people will recognize your compassion and I’d bet compassion will expand to others.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

Om Peace, Peace, Peace

May each being find peace

May each being find happiness


Robyn Boettner

Robyn is the resident yoga instructor on this site. I have been practicing yoga since 2000 and became a Certified Integrative Yoga Teacher in 2005. I became a teacher to learn more about yoga and integrate it more into my lifestyle. I then realized that I wanted to make yoga accessible to everyone. I have taught at Y's (YMCA & YWCA), community centers, community colleges, and various other locations throughout the decade. I hope that through this blog we can explore yoga together.

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