(Image Credit goes to funnyfacebookstate.co)
My fierce friends, I write this post as a new yoga teacher. Yes, it’s true–a long and emotional yet necessary 8 weeks have come to an end but, like this picture says, it is just the beginning of something greater.
The choice to take this journey was no easy one. Money and time were huge factors to consider when I first thought about teacher training close to a year ago. My practice started becoming another limb, a physical activity that became so much more than just mastering complicated poses. I felt I needed more, so I took the plunge and invested in myself. I knew the consequences. I knew their would be late nights and countless hours spent in the studio and, more importantly, self-study.
Self-study. That concept is hard to wrap your head around, especially if you’ve always struggled with being OK in your skin like I have. It takes time to get to know yourself so I feel like I practice the Cliffs Notes version of self-study in just 8 weeks.
This leads me to ahimsa, or non-violence of our own heart which is a part of the 5 Yamas which are a part of the 8-limb Path in yoga. Yamas are “restraints” to practice in order to move through the wheel of enlightenment. Gaiam TV wrote a great piece on defining ahimsa because non-violence like a giant intersection. It’s about causing no harm to others by first learning to do no harm to yourself. It is knowing unconditional love. It is practicing love by recognizing our own struggles and pain and feeling them wholly, not pushing them back down.
Some may say ahimsa is selfish, that it teaches a person to consume themselves in their own little world taking them away from friends and family and other activities. I argue against this point, fiercely.
When you practice non-violence of your own heart, you grow to love yourself. If you love yourself, you can love others entirely, completely, as they are. To some, it may seem selfish when you disconnect from the rest of the world in order to take the practice of self-study seriously. And sometimes, practicing ahimsa means cleansing your life of all negativity–persons, places, and things–serving no purpose. The words and actions we share with others have some correlation to how we feel about ourselves. Pay even closer attention to how you treat and speak to yourself and you’ll find it reflective of how you’re also treating friends and family.
For me, ahimsa was more about giving myself to something totally as a test that I could be passionate about something. And as my passion for yoga magnified, so did my love for myself. We don’t have to practice yoga in order to practice ahimsa. It is meant to be taken with you off your mat as well. Through my teacher training, I have discovered a voice to say “No” and find what makes me happy. Off the mat, I have enjoyed time alone, catching up on my half read books or sleeping in or making tea and drawing. Those who truly understand know I’m not pushing them away when I say “no” to plans. I’m simply navigating the tricky waters in loving myself better so that, in return, I can love you better.
And sometimes, ahimsa means letting old friendships and old resentment fade. These can tear at your soul, your heart, your mind. Release it. By practicing ahimsa, we turn compassion inward in order to be a better friend to others. Whether self love stems from taking a teacher training or finding peace outside in your garden or traveling to some distant land, let it fill your cup with happiness. Once that happiness melts inside of you, let it radiate for others to see.