June - Ahimsa

Yoga really is so much more than the shapes we make on our mat. The Asanas (postures or poses) are just a part of what it truly means to practice yoga.

The yoga we share at Bodhi Body is based upon the teachings of Patanjali, the scholar and sage who composed the Eight Limbs of Yoga. The Eight Limbs are essentially a pathway to union with the divine or achieving enlightenment. If that all sounds a bit full on, don’t worry. You don’t need to go sit in a cave and mediate for 20 hours a day to explore this classical yoga. Along the pathway of the Eight Limbs you will simply find tools to help you achieve health, peace, joy, purity, contentment and clarity. All of this can be done on the Sunshine Coast, no caves or trips to India required!

What may come as a surprise is that our Asana, our physical practice, is actually the third limb or the third step on the path. The first two are the Yamas and Niyamas. And over the months to come we will be introducing the Yamas and Niyamas as our themes of the month. Essentially, the Yamas and Niyamas are the ethical principles of our yoga practice. They are guidelines on how to deal with ourselves and how to interact with the world around us.

It all begins with Ahimsa, the first Yama meaning non-violence or non-harming. There are many ways to interpret Ahimsa and often the first thing that comes to mind when we hear non-violence is the idea of violence against others or acts of violence. This is of course very relevant and important. But there are even more subtle interpretations of this Yama that can truly guide you towards balance, peace and gentleness with yourself and the world around you.

Ahimsa calls on us to be kind - to ourselves, to nature and to each other. The way we think or talk to ourselves, our attitude and actions toward our surroundings and how we treat our fellow human beings are all important aspects of this Yama. Deborah Adele in her book The Yama and Niyamas - Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice, puts it this way…

“Whatever we find ourselves engaged in, this jewel of Ahimsa, or nonviolence, asks us to step lightly, do no harm, and to honour the relationship we have with the earth, with each other, and with ourselves.”

It’s about finding courage in the face of fear, creating balance in our mind, body and soul and discovering self-love. The way we treat ourselves on the mat, particularly during our challenging vinyasa practice really brings to light our relationship with our own being. And this is where all our other relationships begin for “How we treat ourselves is in truth how we treat those around us.” (Deborah Adele again)

On the mat, allowing Ahimsa to guide you through class means letting go of comparison to others, loving your own body and practising to a level that nourishes you physically and emotionally. It doesn’t mean you never challenge yourself; sometimes edging towards your boundaries is a loving choice. What it means is that you become peaceful with state of your strength and flexibility and listen to what your body truly needs in every moment. It asks us to ditch the harmful internal dialogue about what you ‘should’ be able to do or what your neighbour is doing and love being in the experience of your own body.

Off the mat, Ahimsa shines a light on our intentions and decisions and the integrity of what we choose to include in our hearts and worlds. When we make decisions about where to go, what to purchase, and what to put in and on our bodies, are we coming from a place of peace and gentleness? Once you open your consciousness to this Yama, you may find it popping into your awareness many times a day!

There’s lots to explore. If you are interested in learning more, Deborah Adele’s book is in the member library and comes highly recommended. But head into the studio throughout June as we bring Ahimsa into our hearts and practice. Perhaps this month, really begin to notice how you treat yourself on the mat, and even the inner dialogue around getting to class. What is the most loving or compassionate choice for yourself? Sometimes it may be rest, sometimes ten sun salutations! When you are not sure, let the frequency of Ahimsa or self-love settle into your body and you will know the answer.

Amber Rivalland