Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"Yama, Niyama."



Lately I've been thinking about listening and the Yamas and the Niyamas. I will be co-teaching a 200 hour yoga teacher training this fall, and I've been spending lots of time looking at my yoga texts and asking myself what I want to impart.

One of my first yoga teachers had the task of giving the great living yoga master Dharma Mittra a ride from LAX to a yoga festival called the Yoga Crib. Alone with him in the car for a while, she asked him something big, "What is yoga?" His answer was just two words, "Yama, Niyama." Turns out they had more time to talk about other stuff.

The Yamas and the Niyamas are the guidelines the The Yoga Sutras lay out on how to treat yourself and others; a map that if followed shows us how to do the next right thing.

The first Yama is ahimsa, which is translated to "non-violence." It is an often discussed yama and it is interpreted many ways. Some yogis use ahimsa to remind themselves to be kind to themselves on their mat. Other yogis (like me!) take ahimsa as their guide towards ethical vegetarianism.

Deborah Adele, who authors the book The Yamas and Niyamas, has a more subtle spin on ahisma which I love: "Thinking we know better for others becomes a subtle way we do violence. Nonviolence asks us to trust the others' ability to find the answer they are seeking. It asks us to have faith in the other, not to feel sorry for them. Nonviolence asks us to trust the others' journey and love and support others to their highest image of themselves, not our highest image of them. It asks us to stop managing ourselves, our experience, others' and others' experience of us...There is nothing to fix or save in another; there is only the gift of listening."

That's a big one for me. "There is only the gift of listening."

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