Little did I know when I was being shipped off to a remote Greek Island summer after summer as a child, I would experience some of the most profound yogic principles in action. This gift was delivered through the experience of village life. The yamas are yogic principles recorded by the sage Patanjali. They are the ethical standards we strive to live by. Without adherence to these standards, there is no yoga. Yamas is also short in Greek for Stin hgeia mas which we use to toast each other’s health.
Ahimsa is a foundational concept in yoga. It means non-violence to oneself or another in thought, action, and speech.
Simply put, be nice! To me this is the most important of all yogic principles and the easiest one to disregard when living in the anonymity of city life.
As a member of a small community, a village, the importance of this tenant becomes undeniable.
As a teacher or serious student of yoga, it is crucial to understand that one cannot live the duality of “being peace” within the studio walls while creating chaos outside them.
There is one electrician on my island, one hairdresser, one post office, essentially one of every service. If I have it out with my baker, I run the risk of being cut off from my bread supply and my baker’s bread is world class! It might be an interesting exercise to treat everyone you encounter from now on as someone who will play an ongoing role in your life
As Mark Whitwell states, yogic principles can only be passed on in a heart-to-heart transmission between friends.
The yoga retreats we now do in Greece foster the friendships that allow hearts to open and fill with joy.
The joy of sun filled days, glorious waters to swim in, emotionally and physically strengthening yoga classes, and sumptuous organic meals to share with new friends.
Our yoga groups are welcomed by the villagers, as yogis truly appreciate their traditional values.
Another important lesson learned was Aparigraha, the importance of not taking more than we need or we can use. Each summer we packed our belongings onto our one small donkey and began the long walk from our winter village in the hills to the summer village by the sea. The donkey had to carry everything from my aging grandmother to blankets and kitchen utensils. Anything more had to be carried on our backs.
Even when I was five years old, I remember making this pilgrimage loaded down, feeling not unlike the donkey myself. I look into my closets now and am shocked by how much stuff I have accumulated. What if I had to carry this on my back? Maybe it’s time to load myself down with my belongings and donate whatever I can’t carry to someone in need.