Putting Ahimsa (Nonviolence) into Practice

Imagine a roomful of blissed out yogis. To conclude the class I was subbing I made workshop announcements then said: “I am doing a yoga challenge on Instagram starting June 1st #yogafightclub with an awesome Texas Yoga teacher I know Christina Ortega, which is fitting because the upcoming week’s focus is on ahimsa.”

My students laughed, and one said “You’re funny. I like it.”

The thing about Yoga is often we shy away from the darker side, and focus on the light and though it is good to see the positive it is also important to see the negative. Not dwell on the negative but see it and recognize it. This will allow us to change our patterns, thoughts, and behaviors that no longer serve. To practice ahimsa, we first must recognize the areas in which violence occurs in our lives. Where we perpetuate or are the recipients.

When I am speaking of ahimsa I am not talking about the big things such as murder or abuse; we know these things are wrong. These are obvious. I am talking about the little interactions, the little things that seem so inconsequential. Or even those moments when we give into the darker side of anger and allow it to manifest in cruel words directed towards others or even toward us.

There are small things we do every day. Things like procrastinating to the last minute, then being in a mad dash and getting upset everything didn’t work out. Not getting enough sleep or not taking care of ourselves (we all have self-care rituals in one way or another, and when they fall off, we feel it). Being critical of our body. Being critical of our yoga practice. Being critical of our loved ones or friends. Knowingly doing things that we know will result in negative self-judgment and icky feelings.

How can we start to practice ahimsa? We are human and inherently flawed. First, start with compassion know that you are human, and you will make errors, but you are deserving of love. Second, see where you can make changes in your life to reflect the compassion that you are now bestowing upon yourself. Third, when you embrace your unique, flawed nature with understanding and unconditional love you can observe what areas need improvement and what areas you can allow to slide for now. When you start with kindness toward yourself, you can share that with the world. Pleasant interactions just happen, you can acknowledge and embrace the flaws in others and be compassionate with them as well.

Have you ever noticed when you are having a great day, and unpleasantness arises (but for whatever reason you woke up on the right side of the bed) something as slight as a parking ticket, someone cutting in line, or terse word don’t seem to have that much weight or value? Have you ever noticed on a bad day, where you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and everything just seems dour that when good things happen, your mindset kicks into what will go wrong next because the positive is just momentary? Sometimes there are actions that affect our moods, and sometimes it is merely an inside job. When we are in that Eeyore mindset, it can be hard to see where the light leaks in and that everything isn’t as cloudy as it seems at the moment.

We all have bad days, and sometimes really bad runs. Where things may even seem bleak. A magic bullet doesn’t exist, but what does exist is our ability to reframe and reflect. Also, the ability to engage in self-care rituals, which in turn diminish their effect. When we acknowledge that our emotions aren’t something that can be controlled but is merely reactions to certain stimuli, then we can connect with our ability to decipher and determine our reaction to the chemical lightening bolts that sometimes jolt our system that manifests in anger, resentment, fear, and anxiety. We can choose our reaction, and we can also engage in activities that help us remain more balanced and live a life encompassing ahimsa through embodied and mindful practices.

So what can you do? How can you practice ahimsa in regards to yourself? How can you help your autonomic nervous system from being on high alert?

Well, I have a few suggestions for you…

  • Practice Yoga
  • Meditate
  • Practice Pranayama (breathing techniques)
  • Practice Yoga Nidra
  • Spend time in nature
  • Affirmations and creative visualizations
  • Get a massage
  • Laugh
  • Take a bath
  • Listen to natural sounds
  • Spend time with loved ones
  • Do something creative with the mindset of process over product
  • Take time for yourself to recharge and reset
  • When you find that inner critic jumping in on high overdrive, acknowledge it and see what it is it is trying to protect or save you from experiencing. Thank it for its concern, and then acknowledge that what it is saying isn’t true and be compassionate toward yourself.

You are a unique being worthy of love. Take time, do some self-care and watch how your behavior alters your reaction. You will find, that ahimsa comes a bit easier and you can be more compassionate with the world.

If you are interested in participating in the #yogafightclub challenge follow us on Instagram.

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