This year I’m doing an experiment: I’m putting myself out there a bit more as a yoga teacher. I’ve started playing more with themes in my classes, and there are several that one can decide to explore. But for the next few months, I’ve decided to bring more yoga philosophy into my classes. I taught my first such class this afternoon.
In this class, I introduced the concept of ahimsa, or non-harming. I joked that unless my students had already had a hard day, it wasn’t likely they wanted to kill someone as they took to their mat. But non-harming is more than the violence we see on the news: it’s about all the ways we might act, verbalize, and think unkind thoughts about ourselves and others. I hoped the sequence of movements and postures I sequenced would be challenging to my students not just physically in terms of flexibility, strength, and balance, but also as they explored this idea of what it means to truly be kind to ourselves. Some things we explored on the mat included:
- Am I forcing my body into a particular shape when it’s not wanting to go there today?
- Am I restricting my breath, which is life, in any way?
- Am I comparing myself to other students?
- What do I say to myself when it’s clear I need to do something different than others around me? Or when I fall out of a balance pose?
- Do I use my props or do I avoid them because they’re “cheats”?
- What am I thinking about this nutty teacher? (I didn’t actually say that 😉 )
As I got into my car and prepared to drive home, something interesting happened for me as the teacher of this ahimsa business. I wondered, would I be practicing kindness, peace, and compassion to myself and others when:
- I looked down at my phone while driving, or got frustrated with the person in the car ahead of me?
- I put off eating lunch when I was hungry, just to get something else done?
- I ate something I knew wouldn’t agree with my digestive system?
- I critiqued myself for all the things I should have said or done differently today?
- I didn’t sit down and take a little rest when I knew it’s what I really needed?
My goal with bringing ahimsa into my class today, and in fact this week, is to expose my students to the larger practice of yoga. I also had a desire that what they heard and practiced on the mat would carry with them throughout their day. What I didn’t realize was how much it would be a reminder for me, each time I thought the class, to be kind and loving to myself and others. For that students, I thank you!