Yoga Philosophy for Bipolar Disorder 101: Part 1, Ahimsa

Yoga is more than what you want your body to look like. What do you want your life to look like? 

The core philosophy of Yoga – not just seeking fulfillment in the material world while still living in it – offers a structure of restrictions and observances to favor which can lead to a sense of “true fulfillment,” especially to lovers of and livers with bipolar disorder. Reflecting upon these tenets may help reduce recurring trauma. 

I will offer a series of blogs in the coming months to introduce you to these golden rules. They have helped me to manage my moods, my attitudes, my behaviors and, frankly, my life. These are my own simplified interpretations; many interpretations exist. Your comments are welcomed! 

The basic “do’s” and “don’ts” of Yoga philosophy are called the ‘Yamas’ and ‘Niyamas.’ Sourced from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, these illustrations of universal truths expose how it is to be a human, and suggestions to make it easier. They are applicable to everyone. 

The ‘Yamas’ are a set of five “don’ts” that describe impulses in human nature that may lead to devastation if not controlled. Here’s Number One on the list. 

1. Non-violence, ‘ahimsa.’ This is the practice of non-harming, non-animosity and non-judgement toward oneself and others, in thought or deed. Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were inspired by this concept, as are vegetarians worldwide. 

Remember moments when everything was OK by you, without anxiety, with equanimity…when no thought was mean-spirited, no criticism existed, you liked yourself purely and completely… you were comfortable in your own company, with friends, or in your environment… when your mind was kind to you and you were just in Observer Mode? 

Remember when you looked in the mirror, noticed your flaws but turned away, confidently knowing, “I’m beautiful,” “I still got it!” or “Even though I blah-blah-blah… my hair looks great!)”?? 

Remember the control it took to let something roll off your back, and how freeing it felt to let it go? 

Remember killing them with genuine, soft-tone-of-voice, heart-felt kindness? 

What does that that FEEL like, in your body, in your belly, to shift that energy, to allow for well-being?  To not have the last word, to feel equal-to? A little weight off the shoulders, right? 

Going lighthearted lowers blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol levels and tension. BEING GENTLE IS GOOD FOR US! (and everything around!) 

That’s the power behind ahimsa: 

Inner attitude adjustments affecting outward behaviors. 

Controlling irritation and aggravation. 

I know. It takes practice. 

I got better, like I got better at balancing on one leg after practicing a while. Once I got into the habit of this type of control, I actually wanted to do it more. It becomes delightfully fun! 

Upon mastery, Yogis say, this practice of gentleness renders EVERYTHING harmless, like water off a duck’s back.  

Ahimsa is the restraint used by sages taming tigers in the forest, the effect St. Francis had taming the wolf… countless metaphors exist, turning bad to good. The effort is in the turning, like the alchemist. The reward, for me, has been hidden treasure, like spinning wheat into gold. 

Ahimsa is the very first principle of Yogic philosophy for a reason: Kindness is elementary because it can change the world. That’s big! 

When I sing the Sticks and Stones song to myself, I feel the power. Ahhh..himsa! 


Next month: Yama #2: The Power of Truthfulness: ‘Satya.’

References: 1997-2002 Yoga Teacher Training Manual,,

Translate »