Ahimsa – Taking Care of Yourself & Others


The first leaf on the first limb of the 8 limbed tree of Yoga is ahimsa.
Ahimsa roughly translated means to “do no harm”.

When Patanjali set out the eight limbed path of yoga sometime between 100 BCE and 100 AD, it appears that his intent was to tersely codify the previous 4000 years of yoga wisdom.  He did a very fine job of it.  Laying out in short simple verses (sutras), the wisdom of yoga as it had been taught until that point.  He stated that there are 8 limbs on the tree of yoga; yamas (personal practices), niyamas (community practices), asanas (postures), pranayama (breathwork), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) & Samadhi (ultimate enlightenment).  

So, ahimsa – do no harm – is the very first thing we must strive to do as yogis.  It makes sense.  Every spiritual/philosophical path I know embraces this philosophy.  But in yoga, the goal is not only to save random spiders from their doom and avoid taking swords up against our neighbors, but we are also encouraged not to commit harm against ourselves.

This is difficult.  We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with messages about how thin we should be, what cars we should drive, what knowledge we should have, what clothes we should wear, etc. All this in order to be happy.  So it is no surprise that many of us beat ourselves up trying to fit ourselves to this commercial image of what we are supposed to be, all with varying degrees of success.

This dissatisfaction with how we look or feel, may be what got us to yoga in the first place.  “If I just take that class, I will loose weight, get better muscles and maybe that nagging ache in my back/neck will go away.”

In mind my, there is nothing wrong with this.  Whatever gets you in the door and on the mat is good.  But I do worry about negative self speak, and not listening to the cues our bodies are sending us. Practice Ahimsa – do no harm – to others or yourself, through your actions or through your speech.

I read somewhere that we process over 60,000 thoughts a day. Unfortunately, the majority of these thoughts are less than complementary.  It turns out that we are experts at self criticism.  I know from experience that while I am pretty good at being kind to others, I am pretty rotten at being kind to myself.  I frequently hear all those would’ves should’ves.

Thus the trick really is to practice ahimsa with our selves.  When you go to yoga, listen to what your body needs.  Don’t push yourself too hard just to get that firm butt and those strong biceps. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against those, but not at the sake of physical or spiritual injury.  Don’t try to do some else’s practice.  Don’t try to do more than you are ready for in the moment.  Yes, push your boundaries, but don’t hurt yourself.  Be kind and compassionate and loving with yourself.  And then from that foundation, you will find yourself expanding and reaching farther than you ever could from a place of self-criticism.

Shalom & Namaste,

Diana Bonyhadi

Truth is Too Simple for Words

I found this poem today, and loved it.  Please read it, listen to it  and share it.

truth is too simple for words
before thought gets tangled up in nouns and
there is a wordless sound
a deep breathless sigh
of overwhelming relief
to find the end of fiction
in this ordinary
yet extraordinary moment
when words are recognized
as words
and truth is recognized
as everything else

By Nirmala

Yoga Reading List – My Favorite Yoga Books

Yoga Book List

Today I thought I would share with you a list of some of my favorite yoga books.  This list is not complete by any means, and I hope that if you have any books that should be added to this list, you will post them as a comment at the end.

Happy reading.

Shalom & Namaste,
Diana Bonyhadi

Dancing the Body of Light by Dona Hollerman and Orit Sen-Gupta
Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar
Light on Pranayama by B.K.S. Iyengar
30 Essential Yoga Poses by Judith Hanson Lasater
Yoga the Iyengar Way by Silva Mira and Shyam Mehta
Ashtanga Yoga Practice and Philosophy by Gregor Maehle
The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga by Srivatsa Ramaswami
The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V Desikvhar

Anatomy of Movement by Blandine Calais-Germain
Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff
Yoga Body, Anatomy, Kinesiology and Aasna by Judith Hanson Lasater

Living Your Yoga – Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life by Judith Hanson Lasater
Mindful Yoga – Mindful Life by Charlotte Bell

Poised for Grace – Annotations on the Bhagavad Gita by Douglas Brooks
The Radiance Sutras – 112 Tantra Yoga Teachings by Lorin Roche
The Bhagavad Gita – I have three different translations I refer like, try a few and choose what calls to you.
The Unpanishads translated by Eknath Easwaran
The Essence of Yoga by Bernard Bouanchard
Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh