“The practice of yogasana for the sake of health, to keep fit, or to maintain flexibility is the external practice of yoga. While this is a legitimate place to begin, it is not the end… Even in simple asanas, one is experiencing the three levels of quest: the external quest, which brings firmness of the body; the internal quest, which brings steadiness of intelligence; and the innermost quest, which brings benevolence of spirit.” B.K.S Iynegar
Yoga in the Western world is predominantly reduced to the weird shapes we make with our body. Ironically, the poses are only one of the eight parts of yoga (from a Raja Yoga perspective). Yoga in its entirety is a science, a formula to achieve enlightenment – which simply means ‘to see’… A formula to see life more clearly, to see ourselves more clearly but perhaps even more simply - a formula to help reduce our suffering – or perceived suffering as I like to say, as we choose whether we suffer.
At the green room we are intertwining many parts of yoga into any general class. There is of course the poses (asana )and breathing techniques (pranayama) but we add in withdrawal of senses (to help look within), meditation, concentration, and many of the yoga ethics and personal concepts thrown in for thought. Just like the great teacher Iynegar, we truly believe a yoga class can help you move through all parts of yoga.
Asana (poses) can embody all that yoga offers. We try to work on that at the Green Room. However for those who want a little more detail over the next little while we are going to take a walk through some of the yoga philosophy ideas and see how they apply on the mat… and in turn how you can apply them off the mat. Get ready to become more aware, more conscious and see more clearly J
#1: AHIMSA: Non harming
When translated literally Ahimsa is referring to literally not harming other beings but instead maintaining compassion for yourself and ALL other beings. It goes above and beyond physical harm and is referring to your behaviour, your words and of course those all-powerful thoughts.
On the Yoga Mat
On the yoga mat Ahimsa is a great focal point. In Western society we are taught to always want more, to push ourselves and demand more from our body, energy and mind. Ahimsa is the opposite. It asks us to really connect to our body – to listen to it and honour it in that moment. This applies to if you are working with a physical injury, illness, weakness or just had a rough day. It does take some practice to recognise the difference between when you are choosing to run from a pose because your mind is telling you that you cannot hold it anymore (building your mental weaknesses – feeding your flight response) – and the opposite moving slowly out of a pose because your body is telling you ‘That is enough thankyou.’ You will hear challenging cues from the teacher – come down lower into your horse, or surrender into your pidgeon…. Both are equally as hard. Both are equally as important. Learning to listen to your body and practice ahimsa (non-violence and compassion to yourself) whilst still being able to strengthen your body is one of the great lessons of yoga.
Ahimsa is not only applied in a physical sense on the mat. GRY practitioners are well aware it applies to your thoughts just as much. Observing your thoughts is step one. Retraining them is step two. Rather than beating yourself up about falling out of a pose or the fact that your legs have their shake on, or you are not as strong as last week see if you can redirect that internal dialogue to be positive and encouraging. As we say ‘Speak only to yourself as you would speak to a small child that you love.’ Kindness, understanding and encouragement prevail.
Off the Yoga Mat
Ahimsa off the mat continues everywhere you look. It is about how you interact with people, animals and the environment – how much love and compassion you show them, how you speak to them, how you judge or don’t judge them. Once you have started to practice ahimsa on the mat you will start to be a little more aware of how you treat yourself and others.
The Dalia Lama suggests that before we speak we ask ourselves ‘Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” If you ask yourself this before you speak I can almost guarantee that you won’t have nearly half as much to say J Your words and behaviour have a strong effect on the world around you. A simple smile at someone may make their day. A small kind gesture may make their week. And a hug at that exact perfect moment may be enough to improve their outlook on mankind. Practice ahimsa wherever you can. To all beings.
Of course practicing Ahimsa in the internal dialogue is as critical off the mat as it is on. We are our own worst critics. There are enough critics in the world. See if you can retrain your mind to be a fan of your amazing self.
## Ahimsa Challenges
#01: Try to only speak and behave if it’s true, kind and necessary. Notice how many things you refrain from saying or doing. This will be hard. Its ok if you forget, just assess afterwards whether what you said was required.
#02: See if you can carry on Ahimsa off the mat. Start with the physical. Rather than tormenting your body with crazy runs that your ego is doing because your bestie is running a marathon, maybe listen to when your body says ‘That’s enough.’ Rather than doing one million things each weekend, put aside an hour or two to do soul and body nurturing things.
#03: Look for the good in everyone you meet. We are all the same. Fighting the same silent battles of life and just trying to understand its meaning. Whether you are arguing with someone, bump into someone, interacting at a store see if you can feel compassion and understanding for each person you meet. Start to look for the commonalities that you share.
#04: Take it to a whole new level. See if you can give every person you speak to a compliment. Not only will it make them feel great – it has to create some good karma for you too J