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Living Ahimsa (Non-Violence) Weeks 1 & 2

Ahimsa ~~ Nonviolence (February)

Ahimsa is the most well-known of all the Yamas and Niyamas; it's the very first item of all 8 limbs of yoga and serves as the foundation for everything that follows--it should underly all of our actions & thoughts: first and foremost, do no harm. Ahimsa is frequently used as the argument for yogis to be vegetarian/vegan, but that's an overly simplistic distillation of arguably the most important concept in yogic philosophy, and in fact, Adele doesn't even touch on vegetarianism in her exploration of Ahimsa. I consider it in my approach to living out Ahimsa, but it doesn't dominate my experience.

Adele breaks down Ahimsa into four aspects: "The capacity to be nonviolent depends on our proactive practice of courage, balance, love of self, and compassion for others", and provides 3 or 4 specific challenges per week to work on one of those aspects.

Here's how it went for me:

Week one: Do something that scares you or that you wouldn't normally do. Why? Adele points out that the root of violence in all forms (greed, abuse, war, etc.) is fear. Sometimes this fear takes the form of insecurity or the need for control or escape. As we continue to put ourselves in new situations and experience things out of our personal norm, we give ourselves opportunity to learn about ourselves, others, and life in general. Can knowledge mitigate fear? Maybe. I love a good push to choose the option that is out of my norm; it can be a low-stakes challenge and there's always something to discover in newness or differentness.

For me, this challenge was easy and fun. Here are some concrete examples and results:

1. Went to HOT yoga at new studio in a neighborhood I rarely visit, early in the AM (POE in Dumbo).

I am not a fan of hot yoga, but a friend of mine that I hadn't seen in WAY too long has been teaching at a studio in BK early on Tuesday mornings. I've had it in the back of my mind to try to make it to her class one of these days, but the sheer ambition and logistics of getting myself and my toddler up and to daycare early enough to make it there were huge, so I never have. That is, until I had this week's challenge pushing me to make it happen. And of course, it was great!

2. Connected and re-connected with old friends and coworkers.

It's so easy to lose touch with people in our over-scheduled, busy lives. I have always been terrible about keeping in touch, reaching out, and making plans with people that require a little more effort to see. But I fully understand the necessity of genuine human connection, especially female friendships. Having the extra inspiration to make contact with 2 women that have faded into the background of my life was successful and appreciated.

3. Went to TWO new yoga studios while on vacation in Ft. Lauderdale, as well as Orange Theory.

I rarely visit random yoga studios, especially on vacation. As a yoga teacher, I'm very picky about teachers and style--why would I take the chance and invest money on a teacher/studio I know nothing about, when I can have a reliable, satisfying home practice? But on vacation I had to take advantage of family available to watch the kid so I could get out. While my experiences were not ultimately satisfying, yoga-wise, I always enjoy checking out how others design and run their studios and classes. And I did pick up at least 2 or 3 interesting moves. As far as OT, it was a rainy morning with no plans, so rather than sitting around drinking coffee and wasting time on the internet, I ran out for a quick workout. All of these visits were a stark reminder to me of how INTENSE everything is in NYC compared to the rest of the laid-back world. And that I like that intensity.

4. Ran without tracking my miles.

I can get pretty obsessed with tracking my stats on runs. Running for time is something that I'm supposed to be doing as part of the PT for my achilles, but it's hard to just ignore the mileage. However, I did this twice and world did not end. I guess it was kind of nice for a change?

5. Allowed Ahimsa to guide me to better choices

In the very first weekend of this project I was faced with a conflict: a yoga-training workshop, social engagements, and The Superbowl (in which MY team was playing) all on the same day. I almost cancelled the workshop, as it bled into Superbowl time, but used the guidance of Ahimsa to determine my decision: Which event, if skipped or attended, would cause more harm to me (since no one would be harmed by my not showing up to any of these events)? Of course the choice was easy: do the workshop, moderate or skip the social engagements. I'm embarrassed that it was ever a difficult choice. I went to the workshop, showed up late to my own Superbowl gathering, and everything was FINE. And of course, the Pats still won. As expected.

* * * * *

Week two: Balance. Try to listen to my body to guide my pursuit of balance, rather than my mind telling me what I should or should not be doing.

Why? When our lives (or selves) are out of balance, this undesirable internal environment finds a route for outward expression, often in lashing out at or being short with those around us, causing harm.

1. This week I was on vacation in Florida. We had many visitors, both family and friends, and lots of socializing. I tried very hard to balance the socializing/partying with both quality time with individuals and staying healthy/exercising. Usually while on vacation, I'll maybe go for a run if I have time, but unless I'm training for an event, it usually gets skipped. And I rarely practice yoga on vacation anymore--it just doesn't get prioritized for one reason or another. Sometimes reasons are valid, like I simply can't get away or it could be seen as rude/selfish by my hosts to go work out. And now that I'm a mom, there's just lots of care-taking to do. Other times the reasons are not valid, like I stayed up too late, or drank too much the night before and I couldn't get my ass going the next day. This didn't happen at all through the whole vacation; I worked out or practiced yoga as much as if I were home, which is a pretty impressive milestone for me. Yay!

Conclusions on Weeks 1 & 2: It's so easy to get set in our everyday habits and comfort zone. An external push to break out of them was refreshing and satisfying. This is definitely something I'll keep in mind going forward, to help me make decisions and keep things fresh.

Weeks 3 & 4 of living the Ahimsa lifestyle coming soon!


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