Have you had a chance to think about Ahimsa — and apply it to your life this past week?
If not, no worries these things take time and persistence. I recommend giving it some thought this week.
Making a change in our habits — especially deep habits like how we perceive ourselves and others, how we see the world, what we believe — it’s not easy AT ALL.
But… that’s why we practice Yoga!
Our practice is like a special “gym,” where we train more than just our bodies. We train one step at a time, to live better lives off the mat.
We start from the most simple place: Our body and the asanas.
That’s what we’re going to talk about in today’s newsletter…
How to integrate Ahimsa into your asana practice.
One of the guiding principles of yoga is to keep the practice within your personal limits. That means flexibility, strength, endurance, and balance.
Sometimes — especially during guided classes — we might be confused by teacher’s indications. While practicing downward-facing dog, the teacher might ask us to “try” to bring our heels down to the mat…
But “try” could be a tricky word… because we’ll all receive different signals from our muscles and joints for THAT movement!
Focusing on the objective as told to us by our teacher, which is trying to reach the mat with our heel. But instead, we’ll probably lose the extension in our back and overstretch our hamstrings.
And this is NOT the intention of the downward-facing dog pose!
This happens even if we are alone in self-practice because we can become distracted by the voices inside our minds. Especially the voice that tells us what we “should” be doing to reach the “perfect” execution of the pose.
The point is there is no “perfect” execution, no goal to reach except one:
Be as mindful as possible in your poses… so you can listen to the signals and… without engaging the ego… keep the pose within comfortable limits.
Patanjali defines asana as “Sthira Sukham Asanam” which means the asana must be steady or firm, but also comfortable.
If you follow this definition of asana, you’ll be following the principle of Ahimsa.
But it’s hard to maintain awareness of this… how can we work on THAT?
A good strategy is to pay attention to your own facial expressions. This is an excellent indicator of whether you are trying to go beyond your limits.
If you cannot smile in a pose and have a contorted facial expression, you are in the range of causing “himsa” or injury to yourself.
This is the signal to bring yourself back within your comfort zone…
Steady and firm, yet comfortable.
Here’s a little suggestion for a short gentle flow practice that focuses on building three main aspects of Ahimsa: love, compassion, and vitality.
Some indications on how to do the sequence:
- Repeat the first row five times (13-14-15), then
- On the 6th pass continue through the second row. Complete all six in order (13-14-15-16-17-61) and do this twice on both sides.
- Add the last row 1x and stay in the locust for approx 5-10 breaths. Then finally
- Finish in child pose for however long you wish
- Take in mind that this flow sequence can last up to 45 minutes! You can add more repetitions if you feel like it, or you can slow down the rhythm and take it longer.
Try this gentle flow while keeping aware of the principles of Ahimsa we’ve discussed.
Let me know how your experience goes in our Facebook Group — or even by replying to this email if you’d like some more personal advice! I’m looking forward to hearing from you!