Yoga originated in India and is over 5,000 years old. This remarkable fact makes the tradition of yoga older than most of the current religions.
Why then is it that the tradition of yoga has not only endured across the ages but that people continue to be drawn to it in ever increasing numbers around the world?
For many of us we come to experience yoga in the first instance for a variety of reasons but perhaps, particularly, in this day and age, because we have heard it will improve our flexibility or help with weight loss.
But it is only when we attend our yoga class with dedication that we discover for ourselves that yoga is much more than the completion of a sequence of asanas (poses).
There are Eight Limbs of Yoga and asana is one of them but there are also the yamas and niyamas which are guidelines for living a life of personal and collective fulfillment.
The first of the yamas is the principle of ahimsa, which is the practice of kindness towards ourselves and all living things. When we practice ahimsa through yoga we learn to respect our bodies, to avoid injury and at the same time release ourselves from negative thoughts and limiting self-beliefs. It requires self-discipline so that we learn to recognize when our thoughts, feelings, actions and words prevent us from living in harmony. We become more sensitively attuned to not only other people but also, in a deeper way, to the natural world as we move, listen and connect deeply to our bodies and minds. The practice of ahimsa is the practice of nurturing.
Modern life in its complexity and busyness, living in cities, attached endlessly to our devices, all serve to remove us from our natural selves and our inextricable link to nature’s healing qualities. As a consequence, our responses to life can be destructive and unhelpful. We become absorbed in our own disquiet and fail to recognize when we need to nurture. So through the practice of ahimsa on and off the mat, we can ask, what is the kindest thing I can do to nurture myself or others in my world at the present moment or on this day?
Perhaps it is a walk in the park with your dog and a friend where you share stories from the heart oblivious to the demands of the world. Or to feel the cathartic pleasure that is to be gained from the sheer delight of looking up at the stars in the night sky with someone you love. Maybe it’s a journey into the natural world to feel the cascade of water, pure and free flowing from a mountain stream.
Yoga enables us to recognize when we become disconnected from ourselves, the people close to us and nature, and helps us to identify when we fall into physical and mental behaviours that limit our capacity for contentment and happiness.
The yoga tradition and its teachings across 5,000 years of history will continue to sustain and enriches lives. It ignites a pathway for us to follow so that we may view ourselves, each other, and the natural world from a position of benevolence to be valued and nurtured.
Spring blossoms adorn the trees, birds sing with greater intensity in the scarlet blue of the early morning and our hearts expand with gratitude.