Friday, January 14, 2011

Be Kind To Yourself

Every Tuesday morning, I teach a yoga class called Soft Flow. The premise of this class is based on a yoga principal called Ahimsa (uh-HIM-saw) which means non-violence. Ahimsa is the first of five restraints yogis are encouraged to practice. Ahimsa is the awareness and practice of non-violence in thought, speech, and action. It promotes the practices of compassion, love, understanding, patience, self-love, and worthiness. I particularly like the aspect of self-love or kindness toward yourself. This is what we practice in Soft Flow.

As we move from pose to pose, we move slowly with intention and attention. The idea is to be fully aware of the postures you are in, as well as take your time to move deeper (as the body is able) into any particular pose. If we simply take our time as we progress deeper into our physical bodies, the body will, in turn, respond kindly.

For example, if you are in a lunging posture (i.e. Cresent Moon Pose or Anjaneyasana), you can move deeper into the pose one breath at a time. As you inhale, fully extend the rear leg back by pushing the heel towards the floor and extend the arms higher into the air. On the exhale, bend the forward knee more (only by 1/2 an inch) to move deeper into the pose. Try this as your home practice on each leg.

When we force our bodies by moving too quickly, forcefully, or without intention, this is a shock to the physical self which may result in injury or pain. If you are looking for greater flexibility and you want to maintain flexibility, the slower you go, the better and long lasting the results. Move too fast, and the body reacts rather than responds and flexibility is not attained or it is only temporary.

You can do this with any yoga posture. Practice slowly with intention and attention which translates to being more kind (non-violent) to yourself. You are practicing Ahimsa. This principle, of course, works off the mat, too. When you carry negative self thoughts or put yourself down, you are practicing Himsa or violence toward yourself. As part of your New Year's resolution, practice kindness and self-love.

To read more about yoga principles and philosophy, a good place to start is understanding the Yamas (restraints) and Niyamas (observances). They are the first two limbs of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. Together, they are ten guidelines for leading a healthier and happier lifestyle. They bring spiritual awareness into a social context.


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