AHIMSA - A MINDFUL EXERCISE
Whilst the physical practice of Yoga; known as Asana, is important to me it is no more or less important than the rest of the Yoga Sutras. As a yogi it is my intention to live my life in accordance with the guidance laid out in the “Eight Limbs of Yoga” which I see as both moral and ethical guides to help make my life and the lives of others around me better.
Asana practice is the third of the eight limbs of yoga, before that comes the Yamas and Niyamas. From my perspective, the simplest way I understand the Yamas is how I treat others and the world around me and the Niyamas as how I treat myself. As I am not a yoga teacher I don’t feel confident in explaining these principles but in case you are curious there are 5 of each and they are:
1. Ahimsa – Practice non-violence
2. Satya – Be truthful
3. Asteya – Do not steal
4. Bramacharya – Consciously direct your energy
5. Aparigraha – Avoid hoarding or greedness.
1. Sauca – Cleanliness
2. Santosha – Try to be content
3. Tapas – Discipline
4. Svadyaya – Self Study
5. Lsvara Pranidhana – Surrender to a higher being.
After a recent meditation practice where the concept of Ahimsa was very much on my mind, I got to thinking about how I could practice it more for myself and make it part of my self-care tool-kit. Like many people, I find it easier to be kinder to others than myself, especially when I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed because that is when those feelings of self- doubt, not being good enough and general negative thoughts slip in and I wanted to find a mindfulness practice that would help me improve that. AHIMSA proved to be the perfect acronym for what I wanted to do; it is a simple six step process for us to work through our thoughts and feelings to understand them more and enable us to be more compassionate towards ourselves.
A – Acknowledge
This first step is about stopping long enough to acknowledge that something that is going on for us. Sometimes it can be easy to try to ignore our emotions, to pretend they don’t matter or that they are insignificant; but that isn’t the case. Our emotions are the way our mind and body communicate information to us, so it is important for us to take time to acknowledge that and allow ourselves space and time to listen.
H – Honesty
Once we have recognised there is something that is going on it is important for us to be honest with ourselves. Is this something we want to be dealing with now? Is it something we want to continue exploring right now or can it wait until later when we can make more time and devote more energy into the next step? Being honest with ourselves about we are and aren’t able to cope with in any given moment is vital for our own self-protection.
I – Investigate
The next step after acknowledging the thought or emotion and making the decision to continue working through it is to take time to investigate. What information are we being presented with? What is it that our mind, body and spirit are trying to tell us? It can take time to really understand where our thoughts and feelings are originating from so give yourself as much time as needed and be patient; this is just part of a process and is when we take time to listen we can be guided in the right direct.
M - Manage
This is about managing our own expectations. We now know what is at the root of our dis-ease, discomfort or state of overwhelm so what do we do next? It can be easy to fall into the trap of wanting to resolve the issue as quickly as possible but that isn’t always the answer. So we need to be kind to ourselves, remember that self-compassion is important and don’t expect more of ourselves than anyone else who might be in a similar position.
S – Strength & Support
Moving forward from the point we have reached takes energy and right at this moment it might be something we are feeling low on. That’s OK. If our internal strength is enough to get up moving in the right direction that is fantastic, but if not that is Okay too. It is in those moments that it is important that asking for support when we need it might be the bravest thing we can do.
A – Appreciation
Every experience we have in life is an important part of our journey and development. Each experience is a lesson and offers an opportunity to learn something new. Some lessons are tougher and take longer to learn than others, but maybe they take longer because those are the most important. Appreciate every lesson because with knowledge comes power – and our self power is the most important thing we have in this world.
Ahimsa now feels much more personal to me now. My focus on not harming others or the world around me remains the same but now I feel the same about not harming myself. I am just as important as every other living thing, I am a soul residing within this glorious universe and I deserve to treat myself with care and compassion...and so do you.