As we did last year, we begin 2023 revisiting the eight limbs of yoga as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. If we start with sutra 1.2, the meaning of yoga, we are at the beginning of our personal yoga journey. The translation of the Sanskrit “Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah” is “The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga”. Simply put, if we learn to control our mind (through meditation, breath, asanas, contemplation) we will achieve the goal of yoga. Rather than focusing on short term goals, taken as a whole, the 8 limbs outlined in the Yoga Sutras, serve as a guidebook for a life lived with both ethical and moral behavior as well as self-discipline.
Last week’s blog had some links on over views of the eight limbs if you are thinking, "remind me, what are the eight limbs?"
The Yamas, which is the first limb, is broken down into five separate behaviors. Yamas are basically moral code guidelines. The first is ahimsa which is loosely translated as non-harming or non-violence
Keep in mind that the harm must be intentional. If in the course of our life we walk on bugs or unintentionally do something that is harmful to others, that is not considered non ahimsa like. I like bringing ahimsa down to a personal level like not intentionally killing bugs (I admit I carry them outside) or not screaming with road rage (a challenge for me). Of course, the practice of nonviolence should be considered on a larger and global scale in terms of interacting with our neighbors, community and other nations. Many people consider being a vegan as central to practicing ahimsa, something to chew on 😊 Ahimsa is avoiding intentional harm. With words and actions.
Our Practice – Supported Bridge
In terms of our yoga practice, when we step on our mat we should remind ourselves that painful is not productive, gently pressing to our edge is fine. Being harmful or violent to our bodies in our practice is not practicing ahimsa.
Some links about our practice and ahimsa:
Supported bridge seems to be my go-to restorative pose. I have featured it in more blogs than any other pose, and I think with good reason! When we think about doing no harm in our yoga practice, we focus on poses that challenge us but that do not feel painful or injurious. It also makes me think about restorative poses.
The benefits of the pose, being an inversion with our head being below the heart, it helps suppress the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) and promotes the parasympathetic nervous system. Basically, it helps us relax. The back benefits from the extension aid in improving posture, and the pose also opens our chest/heart. I think it helps with chronic back pain.
To come into this restorative pose, lie on your mat with a block nearby.
Lie on your back soles of the feet on the floor and knees bent, feet hip’s width apart. Arms are alongside your body with fingers toward your feet. Feet are parallel.
Lift your hips off the floor pressing down in your feet and place a under your back, directly under sacrum. This should feel very comfortable, play around with the block on the short side or middle side to determine what feels most comfortable for you. Stay for several minutes if possible as your body settles into the passive backbend.
To come out of the pose, push down through your feet, lift your hips, and remove the block.
For more about this pose see the link below
For more on practicing ahimsa in our practice see the following article:
I have posted this link before from the huggermugger website:
Meditation – Ahimsa – Non Violence
Martin Luther King was inspired by Gandhi. They never met as MLK was only 19 when Gandhi was assassinated.
“Nonviolence is the greatest and most active force in the world. One cannot be passively nonviolent. One person who can express ahimsa in life exercises a force superior to all the forces of brutality” - Mahatma Gandhi
“Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and non violence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Here is a short article talking about how Martin Luther King was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi.
Nurturing with Food – Easy (Quick) Pho (Noodle Soup)
As we head into the new year we may think about eating more healthfully, cutting out meat or sugar or dairy or alcohol. Whatever makes us feel better is likely a good option. In the spirit of ahimsa, a plant based diet (or replacing one meal a day, a week with plant based) may be something you would like to experiment with. When I feel like I need a diet reset, clean eating always appeals to me and makes me feel better. One of my go-to “clean” foods is Pho. There are many more complicated recipes for this out there, this simple one can be put together quickly and tastes great!
Here is a Harvard based article on the pros and pitfalls of clean eating.
See you on the mat!