Real Life Yoga Philosophy: Kindness


The concept of Ahimsa has been coming up frequently in my recent interactions with students. It's a very useful concept in the practice of yoga (both on and off the mat) and I'd like to take the opportunity to explore this concept with you. Ahimsa (ah-him-sah) is a Sanskrit word that means non-harm or kindness.

We can think of ahimsa in an obvious way, like don't steal or don't hit. But the concept becomes much more interesting when we think about it at a subtle level.

For example, during a pause in my Beginners Series class last week, a woman told me she was thirsty and asked if it's allowed to drink water during the yoga class. What do you think my response was? I told her about the concept of ahimsa, and how we should always be kind to our own bodies. Withholding water from a person who is thirsty causes them harm, so I told her that yes, she should definitely drink water if she is thirsty during class.

And then, during my class for teenagers at RRISD last week, a boy complained that a yoga sequence hurt his body. It was a triangle pose sequence, and I saw that he was trying to stretch farther than was appropriate for him. I took that opportunity to teach my young students about ahimsa and explained that they should do all the āsanas in a way that's comfortable for their bodies. I think self-kindness a great lesson for young people.

Today, as I listened to the tense and emotional testimony in the Kavanaugh Confirmation hearings, I realized that I myself was becoming tense and emotional. Listening to the testimony was causing me harm. Recognizing that fact was the first step in being kind to myself. Then I took an additional step of taking a break from the hearing and doing a short mid-afternoon conscious breathing practice to help calm my mind and my nervous system.

We have countless opportunities every day to recognize our state and choose ahimsa.

Stressful day? Take a nice soak in the bathtub.
Grouchy kids? Send them to take a nice soak in the bathtub.
Painful shoes? Get rid of them.
Need to pee? Don't hold it, go pee.
Hate your job? Start looking for a new one.

We can also practice ahimsa with other people, and even the planet. Being kind to others is being kind to yourself.

Allow cars to merge in front of you.
Hold a door or elevator.

How do you practice ahimsa in your life? Can you think of new, more subtle ways to practice ahimsa with yourself and others?

Sending love to you today,

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