5 Ways to Practice Ahimsa (non-violence)

In the wake of all that has been happening in our world, I feel I am revisiting the yoga philosophy and practices at just the perfect time. I began reading a book on the Yamas & Niyamas. The Yamas & Niyamas are the foundation to all yogic thought. It is not a religion in and of itself but rather a way of life. You can think of them as guidelines, precepts, ethical disciplines or restraints and observances. There are 10 jewels in all – the first 5 being the Yamas (restraints) and the last 5 the Niyamas (observances).

Yamas = Nonviolence, Truthfulness, Non-stealing, Non-excess, Non-possessiveness
Niyamas = Purity, Contentment, Self-discipline, Self-study, Surrender

Ahimsa

The first jewel, Ahimsa or non-violence has resonated with me since I first learned of its full meaning and the real intention behind the practice.  Ahimsa is non-violence in your words, thoughts and actions not only in regards to those we love but towards all people, animals, the Earth and most importantly oneself.

Ahimsa takes courage, balance, self-love and compassion. “We learn compassion as we dissolve our personal version of the world, and grow gentle eyes that are not afraid to see reality as it is.” This takes courage. Courage to step outside of societal norms. Courage to accept not only ourselves but others just as they are. Courage to learn the difference between belonging and fitting in. Courage to discern between real fear that keeps you alive and fear that keeps you from living.

Here are 5 ways to begin practicing Ahimsa.

    1. Begin by doing one thing daily you normally wouldn’t do. If you’re feeling brave, make that one thing that scares you.
    2. Create balance by finding guidance from messages of your body. Practice yoga or find movement through a connection to your breath and listen.
    3. Notice what you might be avoiding in your own life because you are so interested in others lives. Are you a worrier? A fixer? Discern the difference between ‘help’ and ‘support’.
    4. Pretend you are complete. There is no need to expect anything from yourself or to criticize or judge or change anything about you.
    5. Start practicing Tonglen or Metta (loving-kindness) Meditation.

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I try everyday to live with ahimsa. For me, I keep the word and its full intention in the forefront of my mind. No, it is not always easy however it becomes easier over time. I am catching myself more quickly when I begin to judge or make not-so-nice comments/thoughts. I have also stopped beating myself every time I slip up, recognizing that I too am living a human life and am not perfect.

It begins with loving yourself. Accepting you for you….just as you are. Then and only then can you truly love another. Then and only then will you truly respect, care for and cherish the Earth and everything on it. Then and only then will you begin to realize that your health is directly related to the health of the environment and want to protect it.

“Our inability to love and accept all the pieces of ourselves creates ripples – tiny acts a violence – that have huge and lasting impacts on others.”

You can learn more about all 10 jewels by reading The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice by Deborah Adele. (some of the words/phrases in this post come from the aforementioned book).

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Morning Routine

The stereotype is that all yoga instructors get up with the sun, meditate for an hour in lotus position followed by a full hour of Vinyasa flow. After all of that they take the time to cook an extremely healthy breakfast which is eaten mindfully with tea.

Ha! Not me!!  I will admit, even though I am a yoga instructor + wellness coach I am far from a morning person. I have tried multiple times throughout the years and it just does not work for. And I am ok with that.

Here’s what I found works for me…

    • Lying in bed, with my legs in butterfly pose and focusing on my breath for several minutes.
    • Then I snuggle with Izzee, my sweet pup.

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      • Before I stand up I sit up + stretch gently. Usually a seated forward fold and a butterfly stretch.
      • Next, I let Izzee outside. I walk outside with her, close my eyes, breathe in the fresh air and go through a few 1/2 Sun Salutations. If it’s too cold or rainy, I stand in the doorway taking those deep breaths.

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  • Followed with tongue scraping, teeth brushing, and drinking a cup of hot water with high quality organic lime essential oil + Ayurveda herbs.

After all of that, which does not take very long, I begin getting ready for my day. That consists of black coffee + breakfast.

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Scrambled eggs, quinoa, greens + avocado

and usually entails packing a change or two of clothes, food/snacks and a water bottle. Oh, and don’t forget the laptop + journal.

If I have an appointment/class free morning, I will enjoy my coffee while writing a new post, networking or journaling.

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I have come to realize that not every morning will look like this. Be kind. Allow yourself to stray if needed, for whatever reason. Then, begin again. No need to stress about it.

Have you found what works for you? Tell me here in the comments or post a photo to Instagram + tag @rockwateryoga.

I look forward to hearing how you spend your morning!

www.rockwateryoga.com

 

Move Your Body

Walk, run, skip, play outside with your children/grandchildren/dog, take the stairs…move your body every day.

By keeping the physical body moving + the breath flowing, the prana or chi (energy) will move and flow in ways that promote healing. Be amazed at how movement boosts your mood, shifts thought patterns, improves internal organ functions, and changes your outer appearance. 10603481_10152560495434536_5111260077959162507_nFirst, find what movement works for you…dancing, walking with a friend, taking the stairs to your office every time, playing on the playground, or taking a group fitness class. There is no need to subject yourself to an exercise routine that doesn’t fit your needs and lifestyle or feels intimidating. That is not sustainable. Once the added daily movement becomes habit + part of your routine you can then being to explore other forms of movement. Until then….stick with what you know + what you are comfortable with.

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Learn what types of movement are most beneficial for building transferable strength, increasing fluid movement and improving balance; then incorporate that movement into your weekly schedule. These types of activities require a will to strengthen and control the body, and ultimately the mind. When the body and mind are in sync + the breath is being brought deeper into the body more regularly, optimal health can be achieved.

Such movements include but are not limited to yoga, paddling, tai chi, rock climbing, metabolic training, martial arts, and functional strength training.  The key is to find what works for you and stick with it.

Follow me on instagram, Share your movement with me – hash/tag rockwateryoga.