Does this look familiar? If you're not yet into yoga, does this happen to you in different moments of your life? Yup, we've all done Worrier Pose, even if you weren't a on yoga mat or even moving your body for that matter!
Image created by Gemma Correll
Yamas, the first limb of yoga, is all about our attitudes toward the world. They are about personal ethics. They are about how we treat ourselves, others, and relate to life around us. It's about compassion.
Ahimsa, often translated as non-violence, is one of these. But non-violence probably isn't the best way to think about ahimsa. Most of us would not consider ourselves violent, and so our ideas about what non-violence means or relates to is not quite universal enough. Let's be a bit more inclusive and think of it as non-harming.
Non-harming more generally relates to our every day experiences with ourselves and those around us. It encourages us to speak more thoughtfully and be mindful of the thoughts that run through our heads. It teaches us to consider the impact of our words, thoughts, actions and even intentions. In a yoga class we might learn how to become more aware of our limiting thoughts, how our body feels, or the emotions that pop up in a heart-opening pose. Off the mat we can bring that awareness to our everyday interactions with ourselves, our neighbors, our family, friends, even the people who piss us off as we're driving.
You guys, Ahimsa might seem small, even insignificant at times. But it's not.
This is most likely the single most important thing to take away from yoga.
Little things we do every day can plant seeds of harm. This can be as simple as road rage reactions, negative self talk, or rolling our eyes at our spouse or kids. While they can feel insignificant in the moment (and vindicating at times if we're honest) over time, with repetition they swell and take root. When we keep this in mind, we start to notice examples of tiny moments of harm, perhaps a bit too frequently. Here are some examples from one day of my paying greater attention:
"I swear you do this on purpose. You should have gone to the potty at the school, not in the middle of dinner. You do this on purpose!"
Or maybe that child just needed to go to the bathroom at this moment when their parent felt it was an inconvenience to them
"No one else is crying"
So that somehow means this person's feelings are not valid at this moment?
"I look so fat. I can't pull this off"
The point is, small things leave big impressions. They leave scars, both emotional and physical, neurological scars.
So, it matters. What we say and do, to ourselves and others, matters. The good news? We can choose to do less harm. We can choose patience even when we don't feel patient. We can choose grace with the bad drivers of the world, or ourselves when our reflection doesn't measure up to our ideal. The thing is, all we can control is our little corner of the universe, and that really means ourselves.
If we want to bring peace and create peace in our little corner then we need to pay attention. We need to be willing to be aware and conscientious of our words, thoughts, and deeds, both towards others and, perhaps most importantly, to ourselves. Because if we can't treat ourselves well, that doesn't really bode well for those around us.
Image created by ahimsadesigns.com
How do you apply this on the mat?
Notice when you're comparing or judging, yourself or those around you, and let it go. Become aware of negative or self-defeating thoughts and shut them down. Turn them on their head. Instead of "I'm so not good at this" how about "I'm practicing getting better at this". Listen to your body when something doesn't feel right instead of pushing yourself to keep up.
How do you practice this off the mat?
Bring awareness to the ways in which your thought, words, and actions cause harm first to yourself. Choose a negative thought pattern that you need to change to create more peace in your life. Instead of "I can't do this" try "I'm allowing myself to try". Choose to speak kindly to yourself. It will spill over to those around you.
Pick 20 minutes to pay attention to your thoughts, words, and actions towards others at home, in school, work, or elsewhere. What do you observe? Do you tend to make assumptions? Do you expect and anticipate the same behavior that has annoyed you before and react without thinking, or do you truly let today be a new day with no mistakes in it yet?
In a yoga class we often refer to the physical postures as our practice. If you don't know it already, let me tell you a little secret.
It's all practice.
We come to the mat over and over again, repeat similar postures over and over again, before we see the physical changes in our flexibility and strength. Sometimes those poses are challenging. Practicing ahimsa/non-harming off the mat may be difficult too, because we develop habits; habits of thoughts, of action. It may feel challenging...at first.
Here's where grace comes in. Be gracious with yourself. Be gracious with the people you hold important relationships with. They are practicing, too. Don't give up too quickly and don't judge too harshly. Just start over and keep practicing. The more you become aware of the words, actions, or thoughts that can cause harm the more flexible you'll be to adjust them.
Eventually you'll be be strong enough to catch them before they start.
And maybe, just maybe, you'll get to the point when they are no longer present.
image courtesy of Pintrest
It's kind of like avoiding potholes. Initially we habitually drive down the same street, not knowing the potholes are there. One we hit one, and we become aware of them. We still follow the same route out habit, but sometimes we avoid the potholes, because now we know they exist. Then we get really good at avoiding them.
Eventually we take a different route.
If you took a few minutes today to pay attention to your thoughts, words, actions, or intentions, or perhaps those around you, please share what you noticed! We are all practicing together after all.
Want to try using essential oils to help keep you on track? Great oils and blends to combat worry or anxious feelings, and promote positivity and grounding are:
I'm Tonia, a Midwesterner transplanted to Colorado. I'm a mom of two lovely littles, a yoga instructor, DIY-er, teacher, stay at home mom, and a doTERRA Wellness Advocate. I blog about a little bit of all of these and everything in between!
Are you looking for natural health options, but don't know where to start? Book a 1-on-1 appointment with me! We'll spend about 30 minutes getting to know your health goals and concerns, learn a bit about doTERRA, and go over the most commonly used oils that meet your needs. You don't have to buy anything, but if you see something you like, of course I can help you!