The first yama or restraint I'd like to chat about is ahimsa which when it comes down to it means kindness. The traditional definition was "do not hurt or kill people" yet it can be interpreted to mean one should not be violent in feelings, thoughts, words, or actions. For me, Ahimsa or "non-violence" hit a unique chord during my 200 hour yoga teacher training. I have eczema and have all my life, so my skin itches...a lot. Most of the details are another story, but I started to notice that when I scratched (and ended up with the rash that comes a long with that) I was actually being pretty violent towards myself. It brought some perspective and allowed me to take the space I needed to breathe through the itchy sensation and move forward thus being kind to my body.
I also am reminded of being non-violent when I notice my mind bringing in negative chatter about my body. Setting the intention to be kind to myself really opens up my ability to notice my mind fall into negative patterns of bad mouthing myself.
Often when teaching I see students pushing through asana without compassion to themselves and what their bodies need. Sometimes, it's as if I can see the violent thoughts about their practice (or their bodies) encircling them. What a great time to remind students to embrace ahimsa and be kind to themselves. Aadil Palkivala states "if we are forcing, we are not feeling" and that "violence and awareness cannot co-exist." I love to use those 2 gems while teaching. Reminding students to be compassionate to themselves can be just what they need during that challenging pose. And by becoming more kind within, you can exude kindness in your interactions with others.
Do any of you have any stories on discovering ahimsa in your life or sharing it with your students?