Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘non-violence’. And although we may consider ourselves non-violent people, violence can be very subtle in it’s manifestation and can work on many different levels. Ahimsa talks about violence to other people, of course, but also violence towards ourselves.
We can be particularly tough on ourselves this time of year – the new year’s resolutions encourage thoughts about what we ‘should’ and ‘must’ achieve in 2014. Valentine’s Day and all its hype can bring up strong feelings whether you are single or in a relationship. Even these seemingly-innocent thoughts can carry seeds of violence – when we expect too much of ourselves (and others!) and we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. When we act according to our fears rather than our truth, we are, in effect, being violent to ourselves.
So how can we practise ahimsa? Non-violence is unconditional love. It is living your life with true compassion. Living consciously and learning to love and to be loved. And this means facing and accepting all aspects of ourselves. The light and the dark. The sunshine and the shadows.
Yoga encourages us to meet our inner darkness impartially and compassionately, so that it can be transformed without being acted out in the world. We practice how to meet our inner violence non-violently and how to express our negativity without hurting anyone, including ourselves. When we learn to discharge our negative energies with the positive intention to transcend these aspects of ourselves, we contribute to spreading peace in the world.
So here is a little daily practice for you to try. Even if you don’t have spiritual beliefs, see if you can feel the benefits. Try your usual yoga practice with these elements in place.
* Breathe consciously before you begin. Identify how you are feeling – happy, sad, angry, calm? And then see if you can really feel this emotion in your body. What does it feel like. Where is it? Is is hot or cold? Scan your body and be with that emotion fully.
* Accept that’s where you are today and as you practice, don’t try to change or think about things you must do. Just be with your body here and now.
* Set your intention for your practice. If a situation is bothering you or you are having negative emotions about something specific, then ask for peace. For integrity and patience to treat the situation with love.
* During your practice try to make as much contact with your body as you can – perhaps try it with sun salutations in the beginning. As if you are massaging yourself as your flow. Giving yourself a little TLC.
* Sit with yourself after your practice and see where you are. Accept and see if you can take some of this conscious thought off your mat and into your life. Try to turn your thoughts into positive thoughts. See if you can change the pattern! Be kind.