The sanskrit word ahimsa is defined as the practice of non-violence in all forms. Emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually, it’s about allowing peace into our lives by being kind to others and kind to ourselves.
Ahimsa sounds simple but there are so many little ways that we can forget to embrace it: gossiping about friends, being impatient with coworkers, berating ourselves, the list can go on and on. Using our mat as a practice ground, yoga offers us a concrete, focused opportunity to cultivate more peace in our lives.
Focusing on gratitude is a powerful way to bring more love and joy into our lives, and counting our blessings is a simple yet powerful way to find peace. It’s so easy to focus on what is going wrong in our lives, but when we take time to focus on what is going right, we can begin to let go of fear and negativity and experience more peace.
Being in the present moment is profoundly peaceful. It is said that if we are depressed, we are living in the past and if we are anxious, we are living in the future. It’s in the present moment that we can truly find peace. We’re not dwelling over what has happened or worrying about what will or won’t happen, we’re just being.
Use your breath and the physical asanas to help guide your mind into the present during your yoga practice. It may be challenging at times, but the more you practice, the more natural it will become.
Make peace with yourself
The person most deserving of your love and compassion is you. We’re so much harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else, but when we can begin to focus on peace internally, peace can effortlessly begin making its way into other areas of our lives.During your yoga practice, notice when you are being hard on yourself. Maybe it’s forcing your body into a pose that is physically painful, or beating yourself up for not having a calm mind or a perfect headstand. When you find yourself being this way, come back to the principle of ahimsa and see how you can bring more love and peace to the situation. Remember that peace begins within, and being kind to yourself is the first step to cultivating peace in the world.
Make peace with others
Yoga is an amazing opportunity to melt away barriers or resentment towards others and bring more peace into your relationships. Whether it’s the yoga instructor, the person a few mats over who is breathing too loud, or a loved one at home that you’re having trouble getting along with, there is likely going to be someone who brings up strong emotions for you during your practice. Don’t judge yourself for this, just notice it and ask yourself how you can find peace in the situation. You don’t have to solve anything in the moment, just allow your guard to drop, even slightly, and be open to feeling peace and compassion.
Use a mantra
Spiritual teacher Gabrielle Bernstein offers a powerful yet simple breathing exercise that helps to cultivate peace. It is a great mantra to practice during the meditation or savasana portion of class, and it’s also one that you can use practically anywhere in your daily life. Tune into your breath and then slowly press the pad of your thumb into the pad of your index finger, then the middle finger, the ring finger, and finally the pinky finger. Repeat this mantra as you go: Peace (index). Begins (middle). With (ring). Me (pinky). Repeat for a few rounds until you begin to feel a sense of calm.
It’s helpful to remember that while the world we live in may sometimes feel anything but peaceful, we are largely in control of the peace we experience in our own lives.
Kate is a freelance writer, a wellness blogger, and she has trained as a yoga teacher and EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Practitioner. You can find her online at www.myspiritualroadtrip.com and on Instagram @katehorodyski.