Friday, April 6, 2012

Be Kind & Gentle to Yourself

Be Kind & Gentle to Yourself

I teach a class called Soft Flow at my local yoga studio. It's one of my favorite classes to teach because it gives me a break (as well as the students) from the "hardcore" nature of Power Vinyasa Yoga. The intention of my Soft Flow class is to move slowly with intention through each pose. To be mindful of your body, mind, and spirit. To take the time to notice sensations in your body. To move with gentleness, kindness, and love.

The idea comes from the Yamas and Niyamas which are yoga's ten ethical guidelines that make up the first two limbs of the Yoga's eight-limb path. These principles help you to take ownership of your life and direct it towards the fulfillment that you seek for yourself. The Yamas, as described in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras are "the guidelines for how we interact with the outer world, the social disciplines to guide us in our relationships with others." He further states that these "great universal vows....are not limited by either class, creed, time, or circumstance."

When I teach Soft Flow, the yoga principle in mind is the first Yama which is called Ahimsa which means non-violence. I also like to define that as being gentle, kind, and loving to yourself and others. Ahimsa is the awareness and practice of non-violence in thought, speech, and action. It advocates the practices of compassion, love, understanding, patience, self-love, and worthiness. I consider these deep and important aspects of our relationships with ourselves and others. So, in the Soft Flow practice, we move slowly yet deeply into poses to understand and experience sensation. We move slowly to find that depth without pushing or forcing our bodies into yoga postures. The intention is to move with kindness and gentleness to experience that depth of feeling. When we practice that kindness toward ourselves, we then can practice that same love and appreciation toward others. Moving this slowly, also, allows us to pay attention to ourselves more carefully. We can be more fully aware of how we move and think, how we treat ourselves, how we manage life circumstances when things get challenging. The practice teaches us to slow down in general. To be more mindful of the breath and how it supports us and guides us. The breath helps us to move and to be still. We do a lot of moving, so the Soft Flow practice reminds us to slow down, to relax, to stop.

So, for your home practice, I invite you to choose a pose or short yoga sequence and move through it very slowly. Pay close attention to your breath and how you feel in the pose. If it is a pose that allows you to move deeper into it (e.g. Triangle Pose, Wheel Pose, Side Angle Pose, etc.) start with a modified version of the posture then over time and several breaths move deeper into the posture. Be mindful that you can take your time to move into your own personal depth. Listen to your breath and listen to your body. With each exhale, imagine that you are creating space within your body. As you open up, perhaps accept the invitation to move into that new space. If space does not open, then do not force your body into the pose. Simply stay where you are and breathe. Accept the moment. Be in the moment. By listening and staying in tuned in this way, you are treating yourself with kindness and love: Ahimsa.


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