As promised, we begin 2022 exploring 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 (New Year's Resolutions), 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.
Refer to chopra.com for the below article I mentioned last week outlining the 8 limbs.
This week we start with the first limb, the Yamas, which are rules of moral code (there are 5), the first being ahimsa, nonviolence or non-harming.
We can think about ahimsa in terms of our attitudes toward war and killing and on a smaller scale in terms of what we eat, how we live our life, how we interact with others. The harm must be intentional, not accidental. As you walk outdoors you are killing small creatures without intent as you stomp on them, as you garden you may also “harm” earthen bugs and worms. Ahimsa is avoiding intentional harm. With words and actions.
For you practicing nonviolence could be a simple as not intentionally killing a bug that is in your home, carefully carrying it outside. Perhaps taking a day off from any critical or judgmental thoughts or comments. On a larger scale perhaps adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet or joining with others to combat violence or war. Below are some articles that explore the topic further, both are from https://www.artofliving.org
Funny story about practicing ahimsa. I was in midst of my yoga teacher training several years ago and traveled with my childhood friends for our annual trip to Florida. My favorite book from that time was Desikachar’s Heart of Yoga which I still read regularly. I came into the living room one day to see my friend wildly swatting and killing flies with the book (which contained plenty of references on ahimsa). I laughed out loud at the irony….(but yes, I do carry bugs outside).
By the way, according to Desikachar ahimsa means “kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things”.
Meditation – Ahimsa – Non Violence
“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
For more on Gandhi and his work for peace:
Our Practice – Supported Bridge
Thinking about doing no harm makes me reflexively think of gentle, restorative postures. We have been doing many variations of bridge pose in class the past couple of weeks and supported bridge is a lovely enhancement to that work and is a wonderful nurturing inversion.
The pose in an inversion with our head being below the heart. This action suppresses 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 aiding to improve posture, and is also a heart/chest opener. 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 hips 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 from the huggermugger website.
Nurturing with Food – Meatless (Portobello Mushroom) Stew
I have been feeling a little bit overwhelmed in recent weeks trying to come up with new recipes to share with you that that I really love. My husband, Peter, who is a great cook, has been cooking more vegan recipes over the past year and I have been enlisting his help. He also does the bulk of the day-to-day cooking in our house. He recently developed a super delicious meatless stew adapted from a recipe I had cut out from forks over knives. I love their recipes but sometimes find them a little bland and we use olive oil in our recipes, and they tend to substitute broth. We also cook with what we have which has led to some of our best improvisations of other recipes. I think you will really like this nurturing comfort food, perfect for a winter night and will satisfy non vegetarians as well! Serve with salad and delicious crusty bread!
See you on the mat!