Ahimsa is the first of the yamas that I will be exploring. The yamas are one of the branches of the yoga tree and are a guideline for behavior towards yourself and others.
Most people would probably deny that they are violent. They may even say they dislike violence. They may have never been in a physical fight and dislike blood and gore in movies. I am certainly one of those people, so when I begin to study ahimsa, I thought, “I got this one!” Ahimsa is the basic tenant of the way I choose to eat and why I follow a vegan diet. Look at me and how good at I am at ahimsa.
The more I studied and explored, the more I realized there was more than one way to be violent.
One of the ways we can be violent to ourselves and others is through our thoughts, which turn to attitudes, which turn to actions.
Oh. I guess I am not so good at it after all.
I can be down right murderous to myself. I can chew myself up mentally and completely change my perspective on a situation.
As I taught this concept to my students this week, I tried to be extra mindful of the violent thoughts I had towards myself. I really took note of this past Thursday. I normally wake up at 4 AM to meditate and journal, but I overslept and woke up in a rush at 5:15. I had an appointment at the gym at 6:00 and still needed to prepare breakfast and lunches for myself and my family. My first thought was “you really fucked up.” I said that over and over as I stumbled out of bed. I begin to talk myself into how the day was now off to a bad start and how I just could not seem to get my shit together. I caught myself about mid-way through the tirade, I took a deep breath and reminded myself I was doing the best I could. I reminded myself that I would still have time to accomplish everything and would be fine.
That happened about 50 other times throughout the week.
I am only half-kidding. I realized I am pretty hard on myself and although I do not need to let up on reaching my goals, I do not need to rip myself apart on the way there.
I tried to make my students more aware of this on their yoga mats. Instead of jumping to “I suck at this pose” can we reframe the thought as “I am still working this pose.” Small shifts in language have made such a big difference in the perspective I take both on and off my mat.
The pose I chose to demonstrate ahimsa is Goddess pose with Lotus mudra. Goddess pose feels so beautiful and feminine to me, with great strength and balance to make it work. The Lotus is a symbol of beauty amongst difficulty. Lotuses rise above mucky, muddy waters and provide beauty in a dirty situation. As we live in this violent world, can we be that lotus that displays kindness and beauty? Not only for others, but also for ourselves?