Some yoga traditionalists have a hard time accepting that yoga has become such a physical practice - they believe that the philosophy aspects have been lost and the practice has changed greatly in line with its gain in popularity in the West. However, I personally believe that in this time of the world - with sedentary lifestyles, weight gain, heart disease and other in-excess problems on the rise - a physical practice is probably what many of us need! We all have to start somewhere, and if a new yogi finds benefits within a physical practice (enough to stick with it) then surely that can only be a good thing. Anyone who has practiced yoga for long enough knows that the philosophy part will come slowly over time - whether it's why we come to practice or not.
The Yamas can be thought of social disciplines - guiding us towards proper relationships within the world. Today’s topic is all about Ahimsa - nonviolence between ourselves and others. But more specifically - how can you practice Ahimsa during your physical practice of Asanas?
What is your physical practice currently like? Are you gentle and compassionate to your body while you practice? Or are you aggressive, trying to accomplish the next “trick” in x amount of time? Here is where I understand why traditionalists get so frustrated with our physical obsession and perfectionism. The reason this is a problem, is because we are not following the first rule in the very first limb of yoga - nonviolence! We need to find the courage to see past these insecurities bringing us towards fearful perfectionism. We need to be gentler on our bodies and learn to become more aware and intuitive.
Yoga is a life long practice. Like anything of value we need enjoy the process and be a bit more kind to ourselves. Nothing will change if you master a handstand - at least nothing of incredible value. Especially if it is practiced in a stressed out way to get more followers on some social platform whom which you don’t even know. Do not aim to do yoga in order to step onto a pedestal. As my teacher told me, “if anyone ever puts you on a pedestal, you step off it - and fast.”
Begin practicing yoga for all of its value. Begin with the first Yama - Ahimsa. Reflect it into your own practice - can you be more kind to yourself? Like always in yoga the next question would be, how can you relate this practice into your life off the mat?
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