Monday, March 31, 2014

5 ways to deepen your Yoga practice with Ahimsa

अहिंसा - AHIMSA - Non Harming/Non Violence in thoughts, words, or deeds. Compassion for all living beings.

While the popularity of yoga is growing worldwide, many people are discovering that yoga is more than just a physical exercise.  It truly is a path to spiritual liberation.  Let's remember that the meaning of "spirit" is to breathe life into, we are all made from spirit (breath: life force energy/prana), and yoga is a practice that teaches us to unite with our breath.  This liberation begins with understanding the 8 Limbs of yoga.

Many yogis take their practice to the next level with the study and embodiment of the 8 Limbs of yoga.  The first two limbs being Yamas and Niyamas comprise the ethical rules for the yoga aspirant.  The Yamas and Niyamas are the foundation of our yoga practice, the path to liberation.

The first Yama is Ahimsa, which means non violence/non harming to all living beings in thoughts, words, or actions.  This yama asks the yoga aspirant to take responsibility for their actions, choices, thoughts and be guided by compassion.  Here are 5 ways to implement ahimsa into your life

1) Plant based diet - While this respects the life of the animal it also is a choice of compassion to our own body as it is better for digestion and cell rejuvenation to consume plant based diets. It is also better for the environment due to excessive waste from factory farms, and it releases the chance to consume any karmic residue from the animal.  There are delicious smoothie, juice, and raw food or warm food vegetarian/vegan recipes available.  For people in North America, local farm foods or organic produce is always a good option, familiarize yourself with the "dirty dozen" and "clean fifteen".  For those omnivores out there this point is to encourage you to add more fruits and veggies into your diet, your body will thank you. 

2) Love Thyself - This itself can be a huge topic to discuss about self love.  Surround yourself with people, habits, literature, experiences that elevate your soul and bring joy to your life.  Be good to your body in yoga class with breath initiated movement, and child pose if necessary.  Let go of the toxic habits and relationships that infringe on your mental and physical health.  Take some time to celebrate your victories rather than rant about being a victim, celebrate your beauty rather than focus on media influenced flaws, celebrate your blessings at every moment and more will pour into your life.  This is not to diminish any trauma that you may have gone through, rather to empower yourself to never be defined by a traumatic experience.  Yoga teachers who have found this love always shine with more compassion on others.  Yoga students who found this love tend to see all things with a loving, understanding and compassionate heart.
3) Words - Speak Lovingly always to yourself and others.  Our self dialogue is so powerful, therefore take some time to make affirmations beginning with "I AM" and be mindful of what we say afterwords.  Refrain from gossip, and even release the habit to speak in a way that would harm another persons reputation or feelings, even if it is true.  A true yogi knows the power of silence, a person with inner peace knows the power of loving words, and compassion.  We may not always get along, we may have disagreements, it is the path of the yogi to walk away, send loving thoughts, walk the loving path, and always choose forgiveness.

4) Oneness - While many would claim the word as tolerance, I feel oneness better describes the choice to look compassionately on things that challenge us.  Perhaps a situation is disappointing, take time to understand the disappointing emotional reaction is bringing up unresolved emotions that are like rippling waves in our life, leading us to the current tidal wave moments. It is easy to blame and point fingers, the yogi always aims to understand, which means understand what makes us react with passionate disturbance, our inner peace is ours and when we truly have oneness, we always shine like stars in the night sky.  
 "Nothing in the world can bother you as much as your own mind.  I tell you, in fact, others seem to be bothering you, but it is not others, it is your own mind." Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
5) Gratitude - Cultivate an attitude of gratitude and say thank you in every breath, your life is guaranteed to reflect many more things to be grateful for.  Perhaps you had your hopes set on achieving something or success in something, rather than put all your energy on the loss, be thankful for the experience and trust there is better for you.  Where your energy goes, energy flows both on and off your yoga mat.  Take time to be grateful for everything, family, friends, life, home, food, the list of things we can be grateful for, is usually greater than we tend to realize.  Perhaps your yoga practice is not where you would like it to be, you may have had a set back physically, relax, breathe, and be grateful for where it is, challenge yourself to quiet the inner dialogue of expectations, judgements, and just enjoy being in the moment and dance with your breath.

Those who study the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in depth, take workshops or yoga teacher training may have the chance to learn more about the yoga sutras.  For those of you intimidated to take a yoga class, lose that fear and take a class, and see if you can add anything from this list into your daily routine.  For those of you who are yoga students already (including teachers) see if you can revisit something on this list for your own life.  Enjoy every moment and shine your love in every breath. ~ Namaste

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