Yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahra, dharana, dhyana and samadhi are the eight limbs of yoga
Ahimsa, satya, asteya, bramacharya and aparigraha are the five yamas
The yoga sutras of Patanjali, 2.30-31

In the classical yoga system described by Patanjali more than two thousand years ago, the first stage (or limb, as they are generally called) of yoga is Yama (ethical disciplines) and of these, Ahimsa is the first. In short, according to Patanjali, ahimasa, non-violence or, as Desikashar defines it, "Consideration for all living creatures, especially those who are innocent, in difficulty or worse off than we are" should be the very beginning of any yoga practice. One of the greatest and most famous yogis of the 20th century, Mahatma Gandhi, proved that ahimsa is a workable idea through his successful non-violent resistance to British rule in India.
What Patanjali (and Ghandi) tell us is that as yogis, we should be concerned about bringing peace in the world, and about promoting a peaceful resolution to conflicts of all kinds. They are telling us (and indeed, experience shows again and again) that violence is never a satisfactory solution. Violence hardens our ego and is self perpetuating. Look for example at what is presently happening in Israel, where the brutally coercive methods used by Tsahal against Palestinians not only have failed to stop suicide bombings, but have contributed to further widening the gap between the two communities and to making a peaceful solution to the Palestinian problem more unlikely.
The present situation in which the Bush administration seems to be seeking any pretext to wage war on Iraq should therefore be of great concern to any serious yoga practioner who regards yoga as more than just a physical practice.
But what can we do to stop governments from waging war in our name?
Well, we are not powerless as many of us may think, but we've got to make our voices heard. If we lay still and silent, those in power can ignore us and attack Iraq (or, as is the case in Ireland, support the war by letting US Air Force planes use Shannon airport as a logistic base for a war that most Irish people do not want).
The most interesting idea I have come across lately is that of Ken Nichols, a former US marine whose experience as a soldier in the 1991 Gulf war led him to become a peace activist. Ken is going to Iraq as a human shield. And taking others with him too. The idea has taken off, and hundreds of volunteer human shields are soon heading for Baghdad with him.
More information on the Iraq human shield action can be found on the website of the Universal Kinship Society at http://www.uksociety.org.
Other organisations promoting peace and speaking against the war on Iraq include:
Move on Peace, http://www.peace.moveon.org, promoting action for Justice, not war, in the aftermath of September 11th.
Rooting out evil, http://www.rootingoutevil.org/, an association of peace-loving citizens of the world challenging states run by military fanatics who produce weapons of mass destruction and threaten to use them.
Peace action, http://www.peace-action.org/, promoting practical alternatives for a more peaceful world
American cities for peace, http://www.ips-dc.org/citiesforpeace/
By supporting these organisations, financially or otherwise, we are actively taking steps against the war and working toward a better, more peaceful world for ourselves and our children and developping Ahimsa.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

Author's Bio: 

Christophe Mouze is a full time yoga teacher and the editor of Yoga Online (www.yogamagazine.net). He lives on an Island off the west coast of Ireland.