I finished my regular Friday morning class and felt well; low and deflated. There was no obvious reason why – the class had run smoothly enough but something niggled me about it.
I didn’t get that warm fuzzy after-glow of satisfaction I sometimes feel when a class just works.
After class, I walked home in the rain. A decent length 3km or so walk and all of the way home I ran through an internal dialogue in my mind and then I drifted into self criticism about where I’d gone wrong – not a positive dialogue regarding how I could have improved on the class – but where I’d gone wrong.
Ironically the class had been based around patanjali’s first limb of the eight fold path “ahimisa” – roughly translated as “non-violence”. If you’re not familiar with ahimsa it is the the very first sutra in the original philosophy of yoga, it is the practice of non-violence – not simply nonviolence in a physically violent manner but also in a more subtle form that encourages compassion to ourselves and to others.
I had focussed on ahimsa during the practice of a heart opening class and stressed the importance of having compassion and non-judgement – primarily, just being happy with where your practice is right now. Noticing these judgmental thoughts as they arise and accepting where you are in your practice right now.
My own state of mind however had led me to a spiral of self reflection of queries and doubts. As my reflections deepened it led me to realise I would never have spoken to other people the way I had just spoken to myself. I realised that I was caught in the web I had just been describing to others. The internal dialogue moved on and mindfully aware I recognised certain patterns of thinking and by stopping for a moment noticed that I could still that voice that is so quick to berate and magnify certain actions.
The judgement that we cast over ourselves can be taken into any area of our life. Just stop for a moment anytime during the day and notice where your thoughts have taken you and ask yourself if they’re being kind to yourself and to others, when you’re with people are your thoughts towards them critical or judgemental.
During a yoga practice ahimsa is the sign of an experienced practitioner. Ahimsa in our physical yoga practice ensures we respect our bodies limitations, don’t compare ourselves to the person on the mat next to us and recognising when to rest.
Taking ahimsa off the yoga mat and into everyday life has far reaching benefits; being mindful of what we’re thinking and catching ourselves when we think critical or judging thoughts to ourselves or others. Recognising that these thoughts only build walls around us, hold us back and cause unhappiness.
If you want to start recognising ahimsa try for one day or even an hour of a day to notice the critical conversations to pay attention to your thoughts and recognise how often you become agitated or negative towards yourself or others.
The Beginners Guide to the yoga sutras
“The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” form the foundation of yoga and if you’re looking to understand more than the purely physical postures/asanas of yoga then this is the perfect place to start.
These sutras outline the eight limbs of yoga. The first limb comprises of the “Yamas” – a list of morals that teach us how we can behave towards ourselves and others to create a peaceful and fulfilled existence
The Yamas are as follows:
Ahimsa – ‘Non violence’
Satya – ‘Truthfulness’
Asteya – ‘Non-stealing’
Brahmacharya – “Abstinence”
Aparigraha – ‘Non Greed’