Practicing Ahimsa With Yourself
“As the yogi becomes firmly grounded in non-violence, other people who come near him will naturally lose the feeling of hostility.” – Patañjali Yoga Sutra 2.35
I’ve been pondering the idea of practicing yoga off the mat a lot lately. For a while now, I have not been able to take yoga classes or participate in any physical practice aside from what I need to do to get through the day. This is due to an ever-worsening herniated disc that made its debut in 2020, shortly after the COVID pandemic shut everything down.
This highly intrusive injury has changed my life, and my perspective on what giving my best looks like. It is quite humbling to go from being a strong person who can carry 4 grocery bags at a time without hesitation, to someone who is afraid to pick up a sock that has fallen on the floor for fear my back will give out.
I find I am quick to judge myself, labeling myself “weak”, as if I had chosen somehow to have this injury happen. I am silently calling myself “Lazy” and feeling guilty about being “out of shape” because of my lack of physical exercise. As if I am willfully choosing this. As if there were some other option for me right now.
Ahimsa is the first of the five yamas addressed in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
Ahimsa is the first of the five yamas addressed in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The yamas (external observances) and the niyamas (internal observances) are embedded within the first two limbs of the eightfold path laid out in the Yoga Sutras. Ahimsa means to live your life in such a way so as not to bring harm to anyone or anything, including oneself. Non-harming or non-violence in thought, word, and deed.
In contemplating Ahimsa in my own life, I realize I often prioritize practicing Ahimsa towards everything in the world *except* myself. Why on earth am I so harsh and unkind with myself, especially during times where I am physically, mentally, and emotionally vulnerable? Where did this behavior come from?
I know if I were reading these words written by someone else, I would be calling out in my mind “Be kind to yourself! Cut yourself some slack! You did not choose this!”.
So right now, as I head into surgery next week and a rather lengthy recovery, my yoga practice will consist of mindfulness to be kind and have patience with *myself*. And when I’m not, I will ask myself why not? I will focus on getting better so I can head back out into my community (and the world) and serve others from a healthy and happy state of mind, body, and spirit. This is what holds meaning in my life, and it is something worth fighting for.
How can you practice Ahimsa with yourself?
Thanks for listening.
Kyra Marino, RCY’s Owner
Revolution Community Yoga and Fitness is located in Acton, Massachusetts