For a proper yogic lifestyle, more than simply finding time each day to stretch must be achieved. The combination of numerous aspects of life should be followed to align the dedicated yogi's entire way of being with the traditional behaviors of ancient yogic wisdom. Contrary to contemporary religion's dogmatic regulation, the vaguely Buddhist tenets of yogic wisdom are as open to interpretation as they are restricting.
The first of eight limbs in a standard yogic philosophy would be considered the "yamas" and list certain character traits and habits it should be considered worthwhile to attain. Generally, they concern avoiding behaviors that would lead to problems and unhappiness. A wise man named Patanjali compiled the yamas into 5 basic principles the accomplished yogi exhibits. The first yama, ahimsa, translates to non-violence.
It is important for humans to get along well with others. Choosing not to cause problems but to solve them is an admirable attitude in any person. As such, ahimsa instructs yogis to avoid injuring any living thing, whether human, beast, or even plant. Of course, this can be taken literally or at multiple levels of strict severity but, in any event, should be interpreted as at the very least warning against malicious action or intent.
In some situations, even the ancients admitted, war and aggression must be respected for their ability to provide food and protect from enemies. While the enlightened yogi understands that passive understanding is not weakness, the masses will take advantage of the kind and meek. However, practicing total ahimsa encourages a positive outlook while stifling chances for regret.
Whether in thought or in mind
A major aspect of ahimsa transcends physical behavior and focuses on the mental attitude of a prospective student. Non-violence of the mind means not even thinking about harming others and removing negative thoughts from the consciousness. Although many people may outwardly appear peaceful and agreeable, the wholehearted yogi displays an inherent willingness to compromise.
Meditation can be a valuable asset towards purging the mind of negative thoughts. Spending time engaged in productive thought exercises and focused mental exploration will improve your control over internal cognitive functions while allowing positive outlooks to flourish. Do not consider yourself non-violent until even your thoughts are absent of malice
The Jainists have taken this yama as far as it can be taken and can be seen using long paint brushes to remove insects from their path for fear of stepping on them. Similarly, they consume a rigid vegetarian diet that brings no suffering to any animal in this world. Certain yogis have taken ahimsa as far as to consume only fruit, believing that even killing a vegetable is too harsh.
If you haven't made the switch to a vegetarian diet yet, you should consider it a worthwhile option. Offering numerous health benefits as well as spiritual attunement, removing animal products from your diet helps you bring less misery into the world and act better in accordance with the first yama of Patanjali, nonviolent ahimsa.
Read other articles in the series:
Brahmacharya (sexual health)