Ahimsa: Non violence
Teaching yoga on a regular basis, means I come into contact with a fair few people over the course of an average week and as much as the yoga I teach is suitable for any ability, there can be the odd posture that’s slightly more advanced. It’s during these postures that the negativity can fill the room.
‘I can’t possibly do that!’
‘Never in a million years will I be able to do that.’
‘I’m not good enough.’
‘I’m not strong enough.’
‘I’m not flexible enough.’
And the list goes on. It would be an impressive statement to claim having never thought or said any of the above in any kind of situation. It’s very easy to have little belief in our own ability. But when it comes to a loved one, friends, family or even vague acquaintances we are so quick (and not wrongly so) to tell them how much they can do. How they are good enough, strong enough, able to do something they themselves don’t believe they can do. So why do we not apply this logic to ourselves?
Ahimsa, meaning non-violence is one of the first stages of Ashtanga yoga, and part of the Yama’s. These are the social rules that we should look to achieve before taking on later stages to the path of enlightenment. At first glace this could be taken to mean non-violence towards others, and as much as it does mean this. It also incorporates violence of any kind, therefore we should look to reduce or completely eliminate the violence towards ourselves as well.
This is of course a larger task than we might think. Negative self-talk is one thing, but the thoughts we have take effect too. Becoming aware of the things we’re saying out-loud is perhaps the easier one to grasp to begin with. Having your friends and family on board may help you bring awareness to your spoken word. If your friends hear you speaking negatively about yourself they can help you change your story to something more positive and with self-love at the heart of it.
Being mindful of this is challenging to start with but as we get the hang of it, and start paying attention to our words it becomes a habit, much like anything else we repeatedly do. The negative self-talk may well be a habit in itself that’s been developed over years for one reason or another. There was a time where it served you, now it’s time to realise that it doesn’t serve you for good any more. With that in mind, we shouldn’t go into this thinking it’ll be an over night transformation, breaking habits takes work. But the work is well worth doing.
Once we are aware of our spoken word we can look to conquer the violence we may think. Being aware of what we’re thinking is one of the goals of mindfulness meditation; awareness of when we’re thinking and what we’re thinking. With regular meditation practice we can improve our awareness greatly and with that look to change the negative thoughts we have about ourselves.
Throughout our Yin classes we hold each posture for minutes at a time. Being mindful with this time is a great place to start our quest to non-violence. Are you aware of your thoughts during each posture? Within your next practice, why not try the following:
If you take anything from this post, let it be that you deserve kindness, not only from those around you but also from yourself. This kindness will allow you to achieve more than you ever thought possible.
Alex Howarth, owner of GAIN Mobility, Fitness, Astanga, Hatha and Vinyasa teacher. Lover of meditation and writing. Even if I can't spell.