This weekend, I start yoga teacher training.
This is surreal to me. I am thrilled. Scared. Excited. Terrified.
I am all of those things, yet also certain. Certain this is the path that I am to walk right now. Certain that this is part of my story for this time in my life. Certain that it will be a ministry and an avenue for peace in my life and the life of others.
I don’t know how to explain the experience of yoga. Of course people can go to classes and learn the postures (or asanas) or yoga, but there is more to its effect than the stretching of muscles.
Yoga teacher training has reading and writing assignments and I will be sharing some of those here in case you’re interested in my journey. Our first reading assignment was a short book about the ethics of yoga and we were to write a one paragraph response to the ethical practice that appealed to us the most.
After reading The Yamas and Niyamas, I am drawn to the idea of Nonviolence or Ahimsa. I have always considered myself a pacifist; I want there to be peace in the world. I want people to learn how to respect and communicate with one another rather than resorting to violence. I grew up in a home that was full of yelling and hitting and did not want to repeat that in my own parenting. As an adult, I have learned that lack of violence was one thing, but promoting a peaceful home was much more than that. It also meant acknowledging the internal critic that drove so much of my decision-making. I was plagued by repeating the same hateful words to myself that I heard from my mom while I was growing up. In order to address my own internal critic, I had to make peace with my body and mind. Yoga helped me do that. It was fascinating to read that one of the bedrocks of yoga is the idea of Ahimsa, or nonviolence, to both self and others, and that it begins with ourselves. We can only be as kind to others as we are to ourselves. That is my challenge: to do no harm to myself in thought, word, or deed and to extend that same nonviolence to others. Yoga is a powerful practice in learning to be kind and respectful to ourselves first and then to others.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the chapter on Ahimsa:
Our ability to be nonviolent to others is directly related to our ability to be nonviolent within ourselves.
One of the biggest challenges to maintaining balance is feeling powerless. Nonviolence invites us to question the feeling of powerlessness rather than accept it.
I have come to believe that any sense of powerlessness we are feeling can be traced back to the story we are telling ourselves in the moment about the situation.
I cannot say this enough times: Our inability to love and accept all the pieces of ourselves creates ripples — tiny acts of violence — that have huge and lasting impacts on others.
Thinking we know what is better for others becomes a subtle way we do violence. When we take it upon ourselves to “help” the other we whittle away at their autonomy. Nonviolence asks us to trust the others’ ability to find the answer they are seeking.
When love became the Lord of my life, I became fearless.
Nonviolence is woven with love, and love of other is woven with love of self; these cannot be separated.