I’m about to embark on an advanced teacher training with my teacher, and this has invited a lot of introspection on my yoga journey. What really drew me into this practice and the deeper meanings of yoga is the philosophy teachings which have the way I approach life.
I remembered very vividly the one of the learnings that struck me greatly was on Compassion. I mean I trust that most, if not all, of us a compassionate by nature. But due to various factors or life circumstances, we lost or reacted without connecting with our innate nature. This teaching guides us to connect with ourselves at our core.
In yogic teachings, this concept to known as Ahimsa (in Sanskrit), literally translated as Non-violence - also the first of the Yamas (ethical principles) in Patanjali’s Sutras Eight-Limbed Path (more about it here).
It simply means to Be Kind, to look at every being with love, however different they are to you. Yes, and that certainly includes ourselves.
How do you practise Ahimsa on and off the mat?
Ekhart Yoga (one of my favorite online resources) talks about how you could incorporate Ahimsa in various aspects of your life, on and off the mat. Just some very brief points extracted from there:
Ahimsa in Asana: It’s normal to feel frustrated when our physical yoga practice doesn’t progress as quickly as we’d like. Ahimsa guides us to let go of thinking negatively about body; accepting ourselves completely – no matter how strong or flexible we are at this moment. Non-violence in the physical sense here means we don’t push ourselves over the edge; of course we challenge ourselves in order to grow, leaning in to that sometimes scary edge, but never pushing ourselves to the point of harm.
Ahimsa in Diet: Do I have to be vegetarian or vegan now I’m practising yoga? While the guidance of Ahimsa advises not harming another living thing, and therefore suggesting abstaining from eating animals, there has to be a balance. If cutting out certain things from your diet causes you harm, then it’s important to consider what works best.
Ahimsa in Thoughts: Our thoughts play such a big role in our overall wellbeing. You may be the healthiest person you know; eating well, exercising lots, drinking your green smoothies, doing everything ‘right’ – but if your thoughts are still harmful, you can bet you’re not feeling as good as you could.
Read the full article from Ekhart Yoga here if you are interested.
Again, the practice of Ahimsa includes our attitude towards ourselves. Sometimes, it’s so easy to be kind to others, but not to ourselves. Don’t you agree?
If you’ve got a Type A personality (like I did, and still have perhaps), you are probably always wanting more and more. You are never enough, you are never contented with what’s happening right now. So again, pause and ask yourself – is it your ego taking over?
There isn’t a checklist of the To-Dos or Not-To-Dos to practise AHIMSA. This is a massive topic in itself, but just give it some thoughts, and see how you can apply it in life.
You know, you can gain so much perspectives and apply them to your life from these yogic philosophic teachings. Yoga to me has become so much more than what I am doing on the mat. Learning about the philosophy have transformed my life in such a huge way I find it hard to articulate.
Perhaps, you will come to a point that you no longer care about what you can or cannot do on the mat, whether you can twist like pretzels or put your leg behind your head. Physical and breath practice is still very beneficial to keep a fit, healthy body and mind, but really the philosophies are huge life transformers!
Always finding it a challenge to incorporate these teachings in physical yoga classes nowadays (still working on it), so hopefully I can share more via this blog. Stay tuned for more or join our Facebook group here!