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Yoga on and off the Mat

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Yoga is thought to be over 6000 years old dating back to stone seals found depicting men sitting in meditation. Nearly 2500 years ago, Yoga philosophy was first transcribed to writing by Patanjali's students as a way to ensure its messages were carefully protected to be handed forward to the next generation. What we consider Yoga in the western world, the physical part of the practice is only a small part of what Patanjali describes as the 8 Limbs of Yoga. The 8 Limbs in fact describe an entire practice of how to interact with the world, ourselves, our physical health (poses), and meditation practices; bringing mind and body into union (Yoga means union in Sanskrit).

One of such practices comes from the Yamas, or social code of ethics: Ahimsa, meaning non-violence. Practicing non-violence can certainly be the obvious: avoid physical aggression etc. However it is the subtlety of the meaning that has had Yogi's deep in thought and conversation for centuries. On our Yoga mats, Ahimsa can be practiced by listening to our bodies and choosing poses that are safe. Resisting the urge to push ourselves into poses we aren't ready for.Off our mats Ahimsa can be practiced everyday in how we treat ourselves. Loving ourselves for exactly who we are right now and treating ourselves with compassion.

Treating ourselves in the same way: action and words, as we treat our best friend. For most of us this is difficult, but to truly extend compassion into the world we must start with ourselves. To quote Buddha himself "watch your thoughts, for they become your words, watch your words for they become your actions, watch your actions for they become your character." Grounded in Ahimsa, begin first by watching your thoughts.