Ahimsa is non-violence in thought, word and deed. Thinking in opposites, it can be defined as kindness, love, and compassion.
What does ahimsa look like on the mat? How can we embody and actually live this practice? It is revealed as going at your own pace, letting your breath guide your practice, not over exerting. A balanced yoga practice is equal parts effort and surrender. We set ourselves up with optimal alignment to encourage a sense of effortlessness and freedom in the pose.
Let’s take a look at a pose and as they say, break it down.
Trikonasana when embodying ahimsa has many different variations. These include:
- Using a block. Place the block on the outer edge of your front foot. If you are unable to reach the block, keep the bottom hand on your front hip.
- Pressing firmly into the big toe mound of your front foot to prevent hyper-extension
- Pressing the back inner heel into the back outer heel, allowing for balanced action between both legs
- For shoulder injuries, keeping the top arm on the hip, instead of extending
- Finding a drishti (gaze) that works for your body, either at the floor, straight ahead, or up at the hand. Bring awareness to the back of the neck, and imagine lengthening, this can be done by drawing the chin slightly in and bringing the sides of the neck back.
- Maintaining natural range of motion with the top arm, not turning this pose into a back bend
- The tendency here is to roll the top should onto the back, focusing on opening more from the chest and shoulders. Instead, extend the top arm up, plugging the blade onto the back. You should be able to see the palm overhead, with out torking your neck. To work more on opening, try turning your navel more to the ceiling, allowing the effort to come from the inside as opposed to muscling into it.
The most valuable indicator of whether or not ahimsa is guiding our practice is the breath. The breath should stay steady and even. If it becomes labored in any way, that is information that your practice is not acting in the most fulfilling way for you. How can you modify, soften, or adjust where you are in this moment, to allow for a connection to your inhale and exhale? Sometimes, the sweetest thing we can do for ourselves is to take a moment, and find child’s pose until we feel as if the breath is breathing us. When that remembering happens, get back into class, and begin again.
Ahimsa on the mat sets the foundation for trust, in ourselves, our body, and our breath. This trust cultivates a sense of ease on the mat that ripples back out into our lives. Ahimsa on the mat allows us to each shine in our own unique way, honoring that we are all on different paths but our journey is the same. We are coming back home to ourselves, a million shining stars, lighting the same bright sky.
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