Hello, SOTCC community,
As each new year approaches, I like to make a list of resolutions ranging from the concrete (e.g., “do more yoga”) to the abstract (e.g., “be nicer to myself and others”). Thinking about doing more yoga but incorporating the more mental aspects of the practice led me to ponder yoga ethics and how to incorporate them at home and at work in 2015.
What Are Yoga Ethics?
In The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice, author Deborah Adele explores the ten guidelines of yoga ethics. These guidelines are split into two groups: the yamas, or “restraints,” and the niyamas, or “observances.” The yamas and niyamas make up two of the eight limbs of yoga, of which asana (physical practice) is also a limb.
The restraints include non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-excess, and non-possessiveness; they guide our outer lives and how we interact with the greater world. The observances include purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, and surrender. They direct us to live meaningful inner lives, which influences how we live our outer lives.
Considering Ahimsa, or Non-Violence
There is so much to absorb from Adele’s book that it begs additional readings. Her discussion of ahimsa, or non-violence, was not what I expected and is very pertinent to a more mindful, healthier 2015. Not only should we be non-violent in the conventional sense, by physically harming others, we should also consider self-violence: being too hard on ourselves; punishing ourselves for small mistakes; fretting and looping over decisions and errors; being our own harshest critic.
The illumination of the ethics of non-violence resonates most strongly with me. I’ve never considered “violence” in this way, and despite the growth and maturity of turning thirty, I am still insidiously and subconsciously violent to myself almost every day: I question my decisions (practice law or teach yoga? live in the country or the city? elope or marry in church?) or tell myself that I’m not “enough” (thin, accomplished, considerate, etc.).
This is obviously ridiculous.
Letting Yoga Ethics into 2015
Questioning yourself is the worst form of self-violence, negating all of the other positive results of applying yoga ethics in your work and home life. Without living a non-violent inner and outer life, it’s almost as if the other guidelines – contentment, truthfulness – don’t even matter. Without non-violence, there can be no contentment or inner peace, nor truthfulness and cooperation with the outside world.
Do you undermine your decisions? How can you incorporate non-violence into 2015 at home and at work? Will this change your relationships with yourself and others? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Deborah Adele, The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice (On-Word Bound Books, 2009).