The First of the Yamas, the observances of Yoga practice, is Ahimsa. Ahimsa is usually translated as non-violence which, for most of us may be pretty straight forward. Give yourself a pat on the back for not beating anyone up today! However, have you beaten yourself up? Probably not physically, but how about mentally?
Extending a compassionate mind towards ourselves can be easier said than done sometimes, and whatever it is that’s going through our mind, will usually show up in our Yoga practice. If we come to our practice feeling ‘not good enough’, ‘not strong enough’ or ‘not flexible enough’ then the chances are we start from a place which will push too hard, expect too much and potentially be harmful. This is why ‘Ahimsa’ is the very first observance in yoga.
Cultivating a mindset of self-kindness and compassion is a powerful way to approach our movement. Think about it. If you’re pushing too hard too fast the body is under stress, when the body is under stress the muscles will resist and brace against us, we begin cultivating an internal battle with the body which can result in anything from a practice which just didn’t feel good, to a physical injury, neither of which are what Yoga is for. But if we approach our practice from a place of acceptance and an intention of kindness, which in thought may go along the lines of ‘I feel tired today, I’m going to move gently and rest when I need to’ or ‘I feel really energetic, I’d like to move dynamically and pay attention to my limits’, then we begin to cultivate a relationship of trust with ourselves. We develop a synergistic feedback between body and mind which recognises, accepts and nurtures what is truly needed. It’s in this space of trust and respect for ourselves that we leave our Yoga practice feeling nourished, regardless of our energy levels, mood or physical condition.
Take Ahimsa off the mat today. Recognise your own inner dialogue without judgement, just notice. Are you being kind to yourself? Are you nurturing what it is you truly need?