Ahimsa~Being Kind to Yourself

It is no secret that I love yoga.  But when I think of “yoga”, it is so much bigger than the postures I practice while on my mat.  Most Westerners are most familiar with the third limb of yoga, the asanas or postures.  However, over the course of my yoga practice, it has become apparent to me that without attention to the other 7 limbs, yoga is just another form of exercise.   There is nothing wrong with practicing the yoga postures by themselves. However, there are those of us for whom yoga has become a lifestyle, molding who we are as people.  Because I have so much gratitude for the practice for saving my life many times over, I feel compelled to share what yoga is off the mat.

Patanjali, the author of Yoga Sutra, written two centuries after the life of Jesus, lays out the study of yoga.  He writes of an eight-limbed system, the first limbs being the yamas,  including asana or postures.  The yamas are really the first step in the practice that addresses the whole fabric of our lives, not just physical health or solitary spiritual existence.  The rest of the limbs are the niyamas.  These are more personal precepts :  pranayama (breathing exercise), pratyahara (conscious withdrawal of energy away from the senses), dharana (concentration), and samadhi (self-actualization).

The first yama is perhaps the most famous: ahimsa. Ahimsa is usually translated to mean non-violence.  When I first read about ahimsa I read it to mean avoiding physical violence. However, ahimsa also means avoiding violent words or thoughts.  It seems easy enough.  Most of us would not consider ourselves violent people.  But if we believe that thoughts have energy, negative thoughts or feelings about someone or something is a form of violence to ourselves and those around us.  We’ve all been around people who just have a bad vibe.  Usually we choose not to be around those people because we don’t feel good when we are around them.

Ahimsa also addresses the negative self talk that we engage in.  When we tell ourselves that we are not smart enough, not skinny enough, not good enough, not rich enough, we are violating the first yama of ahimsa.  We are being violent against ourselves.  Why do we think it is okay to berate ourselves with such violent words that we would never speak aloud to another human being?

For the next week, I challenge us all to be consciously aware of our self talk.  When we find ourselves speaking negatively to ourselves, let us switch that talk to positive, uplifting words.  You may want to spend a few moments right now thinking of a sentence or two of positive words, or a mantra, that you can repeat to yourself over and over again to get yourself over that moment of negative thinking.  Be kind to yourself;  love yourself.   You are a perfect reflection of God’s Love.




Can I Just Tell You How Much I Love Yoga?

I hosted my monthly Saturday morning yoga workshop yesterday.  In honor of February, the month of LOVE, we focused on heart openers. I gotta tell you that as I prepared for teaching, I wasn’t feelin’ it.  My heart was very closed after a very challenging work week.  As I drove to my workshop, I prayed for God’s guidance to help me find the words I needed to teach my class, words to inspire, enrich, comfort.  Because I knew that I was not in a place to do it on my own.  As it always happens, God was there waiting for me on my mat. (Why do I ever question that He won’t be!?!)

The class was wonderful and I take no credit for it.  I am honored to be a vessel for God’s words. Heart openers are powerful poses.  They are challenging both physically and emotionally.  Lots of “stuff” can arise both during and after a heart opening practice.  But with a proper sequence of poses, you can be left with a yummy after glow of peace and love. We all left our time together with that glow, hearts open to give and receive the love that this world has to offer.  I don’t think it is a coincidence that my daughters both told me, at separate times yesterday, “Mom, you look so beautiful today.”  An open heart truly is a beautiful thing.

After class, I had some time to reflect on the morning.  Each time I teach, I realize that this is the path I am supposed to be taking.  I want to bring this gift of yoga to as many people as I can.  I want to demystify yoga so that more people choose to be open to this incredible practice.   What I realized after class was that I have to figure out a way to teach more, share more, spread the word more.  I am doing this practice a disservice if I don’t.

My yoga journey is taking me to a place where I will be sharing more via a website I will be launching…so stay tuned!