Ahimsa is one of the five Yamas, ethical standards for yoga practitioners and one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga outlined by Patanjali in The Yoga Sutras. Ahimsa means not to injure and refers to practicing non-violence toward living things. This practice does not just refer to physical action alone; it also refers to speech.
Words are powerful like magic spells. When weaved together, you can either heal someone’s spirits or hurt someone emotionally. This ethical standard resonates with me for two reasons. First, it is part of the reason I went vegetarian. Besides the health benefits of giving up meat, I want to extend compassion to animals. Eating meat involves participating in the murder of animals. I do not want to turn a blind eye to that. Second, I have a habit of being passionate when I express myself. In my passion, sometimes I talk without considering the effect that my words have on people. I have pissed people off or inadvertently hurt people’s feelings without intending to inflict harm. The desire to never hurt people I care about is the main reason ahimsa means a lot to me.
I aim to be mindful of what I eat as well as what I say. I am already on the path by giving up meat. Going vegan is a future goal. The lack of vegan options in my neighborhood will prove a challenge in this journey, but I am confident I can manage. As for my words, this is an area I need to work on. As an Aries, I am easily annoyed by rudeness. I am a passionate person. I need to go back to my breathing and consider the impact my words have before I utter them. I want to extend compassion to all living beings, especially the people I love, and I will misstep if I do not think before I talk.
Lately I have been getting deeper into my yoga practice by attending more classes. Thanks to my homie Claudyne (I appreciate you), I found a home for yoga classes in MindBodySoul Yoga Studio in Washington Heights. I have attended a few classes such as Ashtanga and Vinyasa (Level 1). I have also attended outdoor yoga classes with Victor Chaves. The dedication to the practice is starting to sprout, but I also want to attend to another obstacle in my practice: diet.
I am a carnivore by habit. As a half Puerto Rican, half Dominican, meat is a huge staple in the Hispanic diet. I am used to eating a combination of rice, meat, and plantains. One of my yoga instructors mentioned that a lot of yogis choose a diet free of meat for the health benefits such as reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc. She also added that this diet helps the body do the asanas with more ease. I can barely touch my toes. One of my goals is to reach my toes and be able to have my heels touch the floor when I do downward facing dog. Maybe eliminating meat can help me get there. Plus, living longer with few cardiovascular issues is a nice bonus.
A lot of yogis also choose this diet because of Ahimsa, an important principle in Indian religions such as Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism which consists of causing no harm to living things in words, actions, etc. Because meat involves not just harming but killing animals, some yogis choose to not eat meat. I try to not be a dick to my fellow human beings. Maybe I can extend the same courtesy to other animals. The recommendation of my instructor, along with the this principle of cause no harm, motivated me to give a meat-free diet a chance. I want to challenge myself and do something that is beneficial for my body and the living beings around me. I also want to get the most out of my yoga sessions.
The thing about habits is that they can change. Since taking my yoga classes, I started reducing my meat consumption. I became more mindful about what I am putting into my body. I eat more salads for my lunch instead of something greasy and fattening. These past two days, I have not eaten meat. This was not a conscious choice. I just started a different, positive habit because I want to take care of myself, and the meat gradually became reduced until I completely replaced it with something else. I plan to try a non-meat diet until Wednesday to see how I handle it. I am not going vegan yet, but who knows what the future holds? Never say never. *wink*