This week I am joined by my dear friend and sister from another mother, Katie Elliott. I hope you enjoy her writing and spirit as much as I do. This week we are exploring the Yama Ahimsa in an effort to look at the way we move and the effect we have on our world. Whisper quietly and sweetly, “do no harm.” xx- Adriene
When we delve into yoga, beyond the poses that keep our bodies feeling good and our beings centered, we inevitably come across the principle of ahimsa.
Ahimsa is one of 5 yamas – the moral and ethical guidelines that yogis strive to live by. In short, ahimsa is the principle of nonviolence. Sounds like a cinch, right? At first glance, what probably comes to mind is physical violence towards another so it’s easy to think we’ve got that one in the bag. It’s when we dig a little deeper that we see all that ahimsa encompasses and just how important, and at times difficult, this yama is.
a·him·sa nonviolence towards oneself and all living creatures; an attitude of universal benevolence; the spontaneous expression of the highest form of love; the complete absence of violence from mind, body and spirit.
Wow. What amazing concepts to strive for! We could talk for days on this subject but for now, here are a few examples of how we can start incorporating more of this principle in our daily lives.
Ahimsa in your physical yoga practice (asana): Remember that time in yoga class, when your body was asking for bridge pose but everyone else seemed to be popping up into a perfect backbend and you almost caved (against better judgment) but at the last minute, before pushing up into said backbend, you chose what was right for your body over what your ego was yelling at you to do? Well congratulations! You just practiced ahimsa! It’s the concept of not pushing your body beyond what it is capable of and in doing so, possibly causing yourself injury.
But we haven’t even mentioned the self talk that was going on during all of this….ahhhh, the practice of ahimsa when it comes to our thoughts! (Insert scary music here. Just kidding, it’s just a matter of mindfulness.)
I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I believe most people don’t consider themselves as being violent towards other people/creatures. (I’m not going to go into vegetarianism here but that is a way that many people practice ahimsa and a great conversation…)
As I was saying, we may pride ourselves on our loving, peaceful, inclusive mindset towards our brothers and sisters, but when it comes to our own self talk, holy cow, we can be down right mean. “I’m not good enough, I suck, I’m too fat, I’m not smart enough, athletic enough, skinny enough, young enough…I’m not enough or I’m too much, I hate myself!” This is classified as harmful and sometimes violent self talk. Things that we’d never dream of saying to our best friend, we hurl at ourselves numerous times a day. And sometimes totally unconsciously.
Ahimsa reminds us to be gentle with ourselves. Let’s make self-love cool again, as Adriene says! We’re going to make mistakes, experience lows, have doubts and insecurities but one of the greatest and most powerful gifts we can give ourselves is to change that negative self talk.
Phew! Ok, let’s lighten the mood and talk about a few other ways to practice ahimsa. Changes we make, habits we create or break stick a lot better when we implement them for the right reasons and when we receive feedback from the experience of doing so. Pick a way that feels right for you and try it on for size, see how you feel. See if it changes your life or at least your mind set.
-For those of us who have a tendency to push ourselves physically, let’s take a month and dial it back a bit. Incorporate some down time. (Permission granted to binge watch that Netflix series!)
-Maybe it’s showing more kindness to the weird co-worker instead of gossiping about them at the water cooler.
-Maybe it’s trapping that spider and taking it outside instead of throwing a shoe at it while standing on the arm of the couch. (You will feel like a brave, immortal super hero for this, trust me, and that’s an instant benefit!)
-Becoming conscious of any road rage we may have. Whoa nelly, that’s a good one! Imagine a world with no road rage!!!
There are a great many ways to begin to incorporate more of this beautiful principle into our lives, and the world can only become a better place (albeit more spider filled) because of it! (And there will be way more benevolent super heroes to go along with all those spiders.)
Please feel free to comment below on the wonderful ways in which you already practice, or plan to start practicing ahimsa!
Katie is an artist with a lust for travel and a profound love of nature. Her ideas of true happiness consist of: a great book, a blank notebook and pen, the beach, oil paints, a glass of good wine, yoga, soul friends and lots of laughing. Not necessarily in that order.
Connect with her on Instagram at @katieelliott108 or @dakinikate.