The Yamas are the first step in the eight-fold path of Yoga. The Yamas in Sanskrit mean “restraints.” And the first step of the Yamas is Ahimsa. Ahimsa means Non-Violence and is the jewel in the crown of yoga. The seat of yoga. The foundation of yoga. It is what all the rest of yogic philosophy stands upon.
I remember when I was first learning about Ahimsa in Yoga North ISYI Teacher Training and I was all like, “Check! ONE STEP CLOSER TO ENLIGHTENMENT! I’m not violent. I don’t hit anyone and hurt anyone.” Ummm, not quite. When you unpack the gift that is Ahimsa, you start to really see the subtle ways that we create violence within ourselves and within the world.
And our world, more than ever, needs Ahimsa.
If you haven’t read, “The Yamas and Niyamas” by Deborah Adele, get yourself a copy. Deborah breaks down Ahimsa in the loveliest way. Her first exploration is around COURAGE. She explains that there are two kinds of Fear:
1) The good kind of Fear that keeps you safe. “Danger! RUN!”
2) The not-so-good kind of Fear that keeps you from living.
The world can feel like a scary place. And Fear can make your world become very small if you allow it. And here’s the deal…Fear = Violence. Adele writes, “If we look closely, we can trace all of these acts of greed, control and insecurity back to their root: fear. Fear creates violence.”
Back in 2000 I moved to the Twin Cities, I didn’t know anyone, where to go, how to get anywhere, what to do. I felt trapped inside my fear. Day after day, I’d go to work and go back to my apartment. Then, I read a book called “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. The book challenges you to do ONE NEW THING every day and those experiences will help fill your creative well. I accepted the challenge and made a list I’d always wanted to do and started checking them off of the list. My world expanded.
As Yoga North’s Molly McManus says, “You always want to be pressing your edges outward. That’s growth.”
A few things happened when I pressed outward on my edges:
1) I felt powerful and confident. I had nurtured COURAGE. I was COURAGEOUS.
2) My world got more colorful with experiences and people.
3) Indeed, my creative juices flowed more freely.
4) Fear no longer was the boss of me. I was the boss of me.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” There’s a Minnesota woman named Molly who based an entire blog called “Hey Eleanor” on this quote. She has done some WILD things all in the name of leaning into her fears and expanding her edges and she writes about each experience (watching a surgery, having a baby, skydiving) with humor and delight. Molly discovered what happens when you lean into your fears; she discovered that leaning into your fears is incredibly fertile ground.
And that’s the whole of it isn’t it? Living a life in color. Living a courageous life. Not letting our fears dictate and shrink our world.
Leaning in. It’s fertile ground for self-discovery, self-love, and self-confidence. Every day, lean in in the smallest of ways (it doesn’t have to be skydiving) and press your edges outward. Seek out opportunities that cause you to be a little nervous (saying hello to a stranger, going to a new restaurant, going to a social gathering where you don’t know anyone, taking a road trip, trying a new food etc.) and watch what happens. Fertile ground.
And that’s how Adele ends her chapter, with a week-long exploration in Courage:
“This week practice courage by doing one thing daily that you wouldn’t normally do…See if you can discern between fear and the unfamiliar. Watch what happens to your sense of self and how your relationships with others might be different because you are courageously stepping into unknown territory.”
See what happens. Lean into your fears. Expand your edges. Be courageous. Post below to let us know how it feels and what happens.
Sarah Turino, Yoga North ISYI Alumni