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Archive for February 5th, 2016

Ahimsa And Yourself

Posted by terrepruitt on February 5, 2016

Recently I posted a bit about the eight limbs of yoga.  Basically a list of the limbs and a sentence about each.  Then I followed up with a list of the yamas and niyamas which are the first two limbs of yoga.  I am sure each limb can and does have volumes written about them.  And I am sure that each of the yamas and niyamas have volumes written about them.  I thought I would just do a post on each yama and niyama.  I was taught the yamas are restraints or restrictions, while the niyamas are observances or rules.  Ethical principles and spiritual practices, respectively.  I mentioned one way to look at it is our attitudes toward our environment and our attitudes towards ourselves.  Well, this is a bit about Ahimsa.  A way to look at Ahimsa.  Not the only way, just one way.  And not even the entire way, just a bit.

Ahimsa is non-violence, non-harming, and/or non-injury.  Now for me, the first thing I think of is non-violence as a physical act.  I think of hitting, punching, stabbing, shooting – something physical and VIOLENT.  I don’t actually do any of those things.  So I think, “I’m good.”  I bet a lot of us are.  But then when I remember that the idea is to have it apply to our thoughts, our words, and our actions, I realize, “I’m not so ‘good'”.  How often do we say that all too common phrase, “I wanna kill . . .” or “I could kill for a . . . ” even though I never really would, am I practicing ahimsa when I say it?  I don’t think so.  I am not sure that this type of talk is not harmful.

Another way we can look at ahimsa is as compassion.  So if we are compassionate we are non-violent, non-harmful, and/or with not cause injury.  And this could be applied to ourselves.  Are we compassionate with ourselves?  Do we get down on ourselves when we don’t do as we expected?

An exercise I participated in recently had us examining how we practice ahimsa when it came to ourselves.  Ahimsa and our self on and off the yoga mat.  In regards to Ahimsa with myself off the mat I realized I say – to myself – I am stupid a lot.  Because of my habit of getting to bed so late the first think I think of on Monday morning is  “Oh, I’m so stupid.”  I think, “Every Sunday since you don’t have to teach on Mondays you stay up too late and then it is so difficult to get up on Monday.  And it sets the tone of being tired for the rest of the week.”  What about you?  Do you ever find yourself saying things not in keeping with ahimsa in regards to yourself?

On the mat or in any exercise situation, we could apply ahimsa.  It could be as simple as not being violent with oneself.  It could be as simple as not causing harm – don’t do anything that will harm you or cause you injury.  But sometimes it is the compassion that is the challenge.  The compassion that says, “You need to be gentle with your body today, right now.”  We so often have that other voice saying, “You are here, get the MOST out of your workout.  Work harder.  Burn more calories.”  Perhaps even chiding you for something you ate and so feeling like you were “bad” for eating something “bad” you have to punish yourself with a really hard workout.  That is not ahimsa from many angles.  Sometimes it is difficult to be compassionate with yourself on the mat or in a workout situation.

It could just be a matter of, as Aadil Palkhivala said, not pushing when we should be pulling back, not fighting when we need to surrender, not forcing our bodies to do things they are not yet ready to do. So sometimes it is not just “not doing” more, but surrendering or not fighting.

As with all the Yamas, there is a lot of room for me to improve in practicing them.  I am not posting about them because I have them all figured out and I practice them perfectly.  I am writing about them to help me remember them.  I think I have a lot to work on when it comes to ahimsa in thought and even words.

What about you?  Just in regards to Ahimsa towards yourself?  How are you with that?  How does it differ on and off the mat?

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