February Themes: The practice and techniques of Baptiste Yoga and Ahimsa
This Month we are using 2 Themes.
- Physical (Asana): Journey Into Power as an access to vitality, power and freedom.
- Meditation (Dhyana): As an access to getting present and awakening.
Inquiry (Niyama): As an access to discovery and new possibility.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali gives us five recommendations, called yamas, The five yamas ask practitioners to avoid violence, lying, stealing, wasting energy, and possessiveness. This Month, we are using the first yama Ahimsa.
The use of physical force so as to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy, an instance of violent treatment or procedure. Injury by or as if by distortion, infringement, or profanation : OUTRAGE. Intense, turbulent, or furious and often destructive action or force
What’s Ahimsa (non-violence)?
Ahimsa translates to "non-harming" or "non-violence" and guides us to live in a way that cultivates a sense of peace with ourselves and the world around us. Non-violence is defined by honest compassion and true love.
HOW TO INCORPORATE AHIMSA
You can incorporate ahimsa into daily activities. For example, some yogis don’t eat meat because they consider this as violence towards animals. Whatever you decide to do with your diet, or in incorporating Ahimsa, you should focus on practicing self love in all that you do. Another way to bring ahimsa into your life is through compassion. This is the ability to accept events as they are with an open heart, letting go of reacting in any negative way and replacing those feelings with kindness and acceptance.
Also, move with intention. Consciously put non-violence into action. Instead of letting the limits of your body create stress, make the decision to intentionally respect and even love the limitations your own body has. Perform yoga poses gracefully, but do it without force.
AHIMSA IN THE BODY AND MIND
We can understand ahimsa as the being mindful of thoughts. The thoughts themselves don’t necessarily cause harm. However, holding onto thoughts and letting them repeat again and again in your mind is what, in the end, can turn into actions or words of violence. Start to practice simply observing your thoughts instead of reacting to them. When you allow yourself to acknowledge and observe, you’ll find that your thoughts slip from your awareness just as easily as they come in.
You can be at the peak of health and still have your thoughts deeply affect your wellbeing. Yes, exercising and eating well are hugely important for your health, but even if you do these things “right,” your thoughts can harm you. Negative thinking sends out messages to the body that trigger the fight or flight response. Thoughts do this even if there’s no outside threat.
The fight or flight response secretes cortisol, which you might know better as the stress hormone. This, in turn, lowers the immune system, and that then makes us more likely to experience physical pain and sickness. And again, it’s not just those pesky bad thoughts we have about ourselves that do this. Jealousy, anger and judgement toward others make us feel bad as well.
That’s where our non-violent thoughts come in. When we think lovingly, these thoughts trigger dopamine’s release into the body. Dopamine is that chemical that makes you feel good and relax. Unlike cortisol, dopamine brings strength to the immune system. It can even cure illness. Those who think of themselves as optimists tend to have stronger immune systems and recover faster from illnesses and injuries. Optimists may even live longer than those who think of themselves as pessimists.
Practicing and teaching Tips using Ahimsa
- Yoga gives you the chance to practice non-violence in your mind at the same time. While tuning in to your body, simultaneously start to watch as your thoughts form. Cultivate your awareness of your own thoughts to find if there are hints of violence against yourself or others in your life.
- Awareness doesn’t mean reaction, though. You don’t need to push these thoughts away ” just recognize them. Observe as they come into your consciousness, and then watch as they again leave.
- In your speaking while teaching especially saying “I will start counting when everyone is up”, that’s more of a threat than encouragement. Instead say “ let’s all go up together” and also allow modifications
- Look: Be nice to your yoga students by giving them a peaceful loving eye contact vs side eyes and dirty looks when they don’t do as you say.
- Call on students with compassion when they might injure or do harm to themselves in your yoga sessions
- Have a powerful but unthreatening tone of voice to encourage your students during practice
- Take note that your body language is also matching your tone of voice so that you enter and leave the student’s space with ease.
- No physical or any kind of discipline that may cause pain to your students including kids.