As we graduate yet another group of brand new yogis from our New to Yoga series, I am excited for them to take their next steps on their yoga journey.
Our workshop comprises four sessions of 90 minutes each , where we instruct the basics in breath (pranayama), postures (asana), and meditation (dhyana). There is much focus on proper alignment and practising ‘your’ yoga, that is being compassionate to yourself always, and encouraging everyone to go at their own pace.
Practising Ahimsa, in other words, or non-harming. Of course, this is just the beginning on what we hope will become a life-long journey of health, self-study and well-being that bestows many benefits as it unfolds.
As these new students leave the studio after week 4, clutching class schedules and - is it my imagination? - standing a little taller - I congratulate them on their commitment to self care, and on the willingness to try something new. I encourage them to drop in and try a whole different range of classes and instructors - we all know how we get attachment to our first instructor, right? - and release them back out into the external world where life outside of this safe space resumes.
This might be a good opportunity to review of some of the yoga etiquette, or protocol if you like, that we as seasoned yogis may also need reminding of once in a while. Much of what we refer to is based upon the yamas and niyamas - or social restraints and observances - which are yoga’s ethical guidelines as laid out in the first two limbs of Patanjali’s eightfold path.
The first of the yamas and the highest ranking among them, Ahimsa is the practice of non-harming or non-violence.
How might that apply in the studio setting, you might ask?
Well, as we begin to walk the path of yoga, we become more acutely aware and accepting of ourselves, and develop tolerance, patience and self-compassion that, in time, helps us project that awareness outwards towards others.
The desire to prevent harm is a natural expression of that growth of awareness, and we start to understand that others are just like us, that they face similar struggles, burdens and pain, and our compassion and empathy develop such that we wish no harm to come to any other being.
Practice Ahimsa by adopting a gentle, peaceful voice and attitude upon entering and exiting the studio space. In class, show yourself kindness at all times by refraining from negative self-talk, and pushing yourself to the point of deep discomfort or worse, injury.
Next time we’ll discuss Truthfulness (Satya) and Non-Stealing (Asteya).
How ever often you make it to your mat, and whatever your practice looks like, it’s important to remember that yoga meets you right where you are, on any given day, in the body and mindset you show up with on that day, and that it’s about celebrating what the body can do, never focusing on what it cannot.
In love, light, and joy