One way to explore yamas is to apply the framework as a way of approaching, interacting, and moving throughout the world. We can use yamas as gentle reminders to bring awareness to how we are approaching challenges, situations, and people. Ahimsa is the first yama. Which translates literally to non-striking, or non-violence. Expanding and experimenting with the definition at the yoga lab, we can invite the meaning of ahimsa to include more specifically love and kindness to all beings. Because it is the first limb, it is the foundation in which all of yoga theory lies. It makes perfect sense, because there is no situation, no physical movement, and no relationship than can exist or thrive without love and kindness. My daily life is full of challenges, struggles and frustrations. Ahimsa reminds me to bring love and kindness to those difficult moments. For example, when someone is rude to me on the phone, i send thoughts of peace and hope they have a better day. Or If someone is driving slow when i am in a rush, i practice gratefulness to people who are patient, timely, and safe on the road. Often I can find ahimsa arises in my Asana practice when i hear my inner dialogue telling us that i am not good enough, flexible enough, thin enough, brave enough,etc. If I listened to these voices, i become resentful towards myself and don’t allow my body to show me what it is capable of. Instead im trying to redirect thoughts by focusing my attention to my breath and silently repeat “love” in every exhale. Using mantras of self love seems to work for me as a gentle tool to return to when these challenging moments arise either in my practice or even in the outside world. Slowing down to find these moments can be the hardest task. Starting my journey I thought “this one’s going to be easy, I’m already practicing this!” However, every day I am noticing small acts of violence towards myself and others. Just this week; I got enraged with my dog for pulling on the leash, nasty with a co-worker who wasn’t understanding what I was saying, I snipped at my boyfriend when he tried to correct me about grass seed, and i was summoning guilt and anger towards myself for not practicing asana every day this week. These are small ripples, but when you picture every person in the world creating negative vibrations, the ripples turn to waves. Checking in, noticing and attempting to mend aggressions with acts of love can help prevent that wave effect. I’m asking myself regularly how kind I am being to myself in every moment, where are places in which I can be more caring and loving. Violence is everywhere in society, media, on the road, on tv, in our schools, it’s prevalence is undeniable. Why should we bring that to our yoga mat? Why should we bring that to the relationships we have with people we love? Why should we bring that with us to the grocery store, to the road, to the bank? If we can begin to practice that kindness with ourselves, we can slowly expand into our small interactions with others. Putting ahimsa into practice helps me to set a tone for an enhanced asana practice, daily routine, and life. 

-Ariel Helman