Moving Mindfully to practice Kindness
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
This is a weekend to be grateful for what we have. To take stock of the good so we can let go of focusing on the bad. In our yoga practice, we are aware of what hurts & doesn’t work more than what feels good. It seems it is human nature to focus on the bad, we seem to be hardwired that way. When we focus on moving mindfully, we notice when we are pushing too hard, or feeling discomfort in our joints (a sign we are taking the joint to its extreme in compression or extension). By listening to these discomforts, we can adjust what we are doing so it feels better. When we move in a way that is kind, our body says “I like you” & will be better back to us in return. When we move in a mindful way, we learn to feel the “ahhh” in our practice instead of the “ouch”. In yoga this is called Ahimsa, loving kindness. Can we be non-harming to ourselves in thought & action? When we can be compassionate to ourselves & appreciate the gift of the body we were given, we find this translates into the world around us.
I have attached 2 articles one on moving mindfully & one on Ahimsa. Enjoy the read & remind yourself of why we are celebrating Thanksgiving.
Make gratitude & compassion a practice & you will find that the bad in ourselves & others will not be highlighted. That when we focus on the good, the light will shine into the darkness & what is there will be changed.
"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow." -- Melody Beattie
Anne Cox E-RYT 500
YOGA ASANA: A MOVING MINDFULNESS PRACTICE
December 30, 2015 · by Tracy Ochester ·
For many people in the US, yoga is a wonderful entryway into the mindfulness and meditative practices. The use of movement makes it very accessible to those of us who struggle with restlessness and difficulty concentrating. In fact, asana (postures) is only the 3rd of 8 limbs of the entire practice of yoga. They were intended to prepare the body and mind for meditation. But, what specifically makes yoga a mindfulness practice?
Presence When we first try yoga, it takes all our energy and concentration just to make the body approximate the postures. There is no time to regret the past or worry about the future. We are there on our mats, fully absorbed in the moment. We are absolute beginners, so we have few preconceptions about what to expect. This allows us to be focused, yet curious and open to experience.
As we become more adept at the practice, we have space to observe the feelings and thoughts that accompany our body sensations as they arise. We learn to let the process unfold in its own time, just being with what is in each moment.
Single Pointed Concentration Yoga helps us develop concentration, which is essential for mindfulness and meditation. The 6th limb of yoga is dharana, which means “holding the mind steady”. Similarly, the practice of shamatha in the Buddhist tradition is a method for calming the mind.
Cultivating single pointed concentration prepares the mind for meditative absorption (dhyana – the 7th limb of yoga) and insight (vipassana). Mindfulness of breath is the most common method for cultivating singled pointed concentration. In vinyasa or flowing style yoga practice the movements are often coordinated with the breath. If you have a more traditional yoga teacher, pranayama (the 4th limb of yoga), which is the extension, expansion or drawing out of the breath, may be explicitly taught at the beginning or the end of class.
We may also use a drishti or gazing point as the object of concentration. In Ashtanga style yoga, every posture has a drishti. Finally, mantra, which can be a spoken, thought, or written sound, word, or phrase, may be used to focus the mind on a single idea. We experience this when we chant om at the beginning and end of class or when you see the ॐ displayed in the studio.
Embodiment Yoga reconnects us with our bodies. Our culture makes it easy to live almost entirely in our heads or in the external world of other people and things. The messages we receive from society and the media can lead us to dislike our bodies, which may result in a disregard for or even abuse of our physical forms. Yoga asana (postures) help bring us back into our bodies and appreciate what they are capable of.
The body is inextricably connected with the mind and its sensations are often the first clue that something attention-worthy is happening inside us. Certified Ashtanga yoga teacher David Garrigues said, “Yoga has been [a] slow, intensely physical process of waking up to what is most alive within me…” When we are aware of what our bodies are telling us, we can make space to consider and respond wisely.
In addition, the body offers very concrete and tangible phenomena to observe with curiosity. Even the seemingly simplest of asana require a coordination of balance, flexibility and strength, so yoga motivates us to treat our bodies with more attention and care in order to nurture our practice. We enjoy the effects of our practice and we want it to continue.
Attitudes of Mindfulness: Compassion & Patience Over time, the practice of yoga cultivates certain attitudes that are fertile ground for mindfulness. It can help us make friends with ourselves again – we gain appreciation for what we are capable of and we develop patience and compassionfor our struggles. We see the tangible, yet incremental changes that occur over time and with dedication. We also directly experience the negative consequences of pushing and striving.
The compassion and patience we cultivate with ourselves naturally extends to others around us and the world we live in. This gives us space to fully experience what is happening in and around us, moment by moment, to see things more clearly, and to respond more skillfully
HOW TO PRACTICE AHIMSA IN EVERYDAY LIFE
June 1, 2016
Whether you're experienced in yoga or just starting out, integrating the practice of ahimsa in everyday life can lead to wonderful strides. Ahimsa is one of the five yamas, which are the ethical, moral and societal guidelines for yogis. Ahimsa can be distilled into a practice of non-violence in all aspects of life, from the physical to the mental and emotional.
Non-violence is defined by honest compassion and true love. You can achieve this by embracing love: learn to love deeply, and also to be loved. However, this is impossible to do if you choose to ignore or escape from certain traits held in yourself.
HOW DOES NON-VIOLENCE MANIFEST IN DAILY LIFE?
To understand how non-violence can manifest in our lives each day, we must first learn how subtle daily actions and responses contain elements of violence. This often happens against ourselves. When our thoughts contain negative responses like disappointment, resentment, or guilt, when we feel shame, we are subtly creating violence. If you can't forgive someone for something they've done against you, or if you can't forgive yourself for something you've done, this is an act of violence because it pushes love away.
Expecting too much of yourself and putting all responsibility in your own hands is a type of violence too, as is expecting that the world will run according to your design. You're being violent towards yourself and the world at large with these kinds of mindsets. Acting out of our fears is a form of violence to the self. We inflict violence on others daily in subtle ways, but this is simply an outward expression of the war that goes on inside of everyone. For instance, when we resent others, it creates a negative atmosphere. Finding inner peace through ahimsa will in turn allow us to Come To Peace In Interactions With Others. This may come as a surprise if you consider yourself a non-violent person. Consider how violence can function in the subtlest of ways. Violence disguises itself well; it manifests in words, actions and even inner thoughts.
Instead, embrace and act from your inner truth. Truth and non-violence are a pair.
Yoga is a great way to access ahimsa in our daily interactions. By practicing yoga, you can confront your own inner darkness impartially and With Compassion. This then paves the way for transforming negative emotions and tendencies without acting on these feelings.
Yoga creates the avenue to getting in touch with any violence you hold inside of you through non-violent means and therefore to express negativity without hurting anyone, yourself included. Releasing negative energy through positive intentions transcends the negative aspects of yourself, creating peace in the world around you.
HOW TO INCORPORATE AHIMSA
You can incorporate ahimsa into daily activities. For example, some yogis don't eat meat. But whatever you decide to do with your diet, you should focus on practicing self love in all that you do.
Another way to bring ahimsa into your life is through compassion. It's the ability to accept events as they are with an open heart, letting go of reacting in any negative way and replacing those feelings with kindness and acceptance.
Also, move with intention. Consciously put non-violence into action. Instead of letting the limits of your body create stress, make the decision to intentionally respect and even love the limitations your own body has. Perform yoga poses gracefully, but do it without force.
Yoga gives you the chance to practice non-violence in your mind at the same time. While tuning in to your body, simultaneously start to Watch As Your Thoughts Form. Cultivate your awareness of your own thoughts to find if there are hints of violence against yourself or others in your life. Awareness doesn't mean reaction, though. You don't need to push these thoughts away ” just recognize them. Observe as they come into your consciousness, and then watch as they again leave.
AHIMSA IN THE BODY AND MIND
We can understand ahimsa as the being mindful of thoughts. Thoughts naturally move into and out of our minds. The thoughts themselves don't necessarily cause harm. However, holding onto thoughts and letting them repeat again and again in your mind is what in the end turns into actions or words of violence. Start to practice simply observing your thoughts instead of reacting to them. When you allow yourself to acknowledge and observe, you'll find that your thoughts slip from your awareness just as easily as they come in.
You can be at the peak of health and still have your thoughts deeply affect your wellbeing. Yes, exercising and eating well are hugely important for your health, but even if you do these things "right," your thoughts can harm you. Negative thinking sends out messages to the body that trigger the fight or flight response. Thoughts do this even if there's no outside threat.
The fight or flight response secretes cortisol, which you might know better as the stress hormone. This, in turn, lowers the immune system, and that then makes us more likely to experience physical pain and sickness. And again, it's not just those pesky bad thoughts we have about ourselves that do this. Jealousy, anger and judgement toward others make us feel bad as well.
That's where our non-violent thoughts come in. When we think lovingly, these thoughts trigger dopamine's release into the body. Dopamine is that chemical that makes you feel good and relax. Unlike cortisol, dopamine brings strength to the immune system. It can even cure illness. Those who think of themselves as optimists tend to have stronger immune systems and recover faster from illnesses and injuries. Optimists may even Live Longer than those who think of themselves as pessimists.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU
When you turn your yoga practice into a complete lifestyle, ahimsa can guide your daily interactions with yourself and others. Anyone, regardless of experience, can get frustrated when the physical components of yoga don't move forward as quickly as planned. Keeping ahimsa in mind as we practice yoga lets us move out of negative thoughts about the body. We can then accept ourselves totally, no matter how flexible, how strong we may be in any given moment.
This translates to all aspects of our lives. In the physical sense, non-violence means not pushing yourself over the edge. You can, of course, still challenge yourself so that you can grow; in fact, you must. But embracing ahimsa means not pushing yourself to harm.
You shouldn't put much stock in holding a handstand long enough to please your ego if it brings you harm. Likewise, you shouldn't hold on to resentment or jealousy against yourself or someone else. Embracing ahimsa instead will improve your own well-being as well as those around you.
Everyone holds pain inside themselves, but you can overcome this in a positive way when you practice ahimsa. There is nothing inherently wrong with this; it's human nature. We must, however, learn to fully experience these negative feeling without reacting negatively to them. This may seem contradictory, but ahimsa leads to a path of peaceful living. By observing but not acting on our natural feelings of pain, hatred, pain and violence will move out of our lives, and doors will open to new understanding.
Let go of expectations of what you should do. Stop clinging to the need to scold yourself with negative, violent thoughts. When we do this, our bodies respond. Instead of bringing in those negative emotions and working against us, our bodies start working with us.
Practice ahimsa in your interactions each day by accepting, then releasing negative thoughts about yourself and others. If you're looking for other ways to bring ahimsa into your everyday practices, you can find them Here On Gaia. You can have ahimsa in your diet, in your thoughts, and in how you communicate with the people around you.
The yoga practice of non-violence can easily move into all aspects of your life. Yoga creates a peaceful reconciliation with your true nature. Non-violence comes from love of the true self, from true self-acceptance. This ahimsa comes from Deep In The Heart.