Friday, 17 July 2015

Taking your yoga off the mat - ahimsa

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I love inverted heart shape marking on the great tit's chest. Great for a loving kindness meditation. Thank you to Hannah who took the photo.

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Ahimsa translates as non-harming. On the yoga mat this means not practicing beyond your limitations. In yoga we talk of 'finding your edge' that is where you can feel the stretch but you are not straining. We should also not strain in breathing practices.  

Off the mat ahimsa means so much more than not physically harming anyone. It also means not talking about anyone in a negative way or even thinking negative thoughts about them. Often however, it is ourselves that we think of in a a way that is not in keeping with ahimsa. We all tend to have an 'inner critic'. You know that voice which undermines our confidence, playing on our hurts and insecurities, and keeping us from the peace that we all desire and deserve. The inner critic tells us we are not 'good enough', 'pretty enough' 'flexible enough' etc, etc, etc. Ahimsa means silencing this inner critic which can lead to physical symptoms if left unchecked. There are several ways you can do this but key is cultivating self-love. It is only by having this core of self-love that we can then reach out with love for others.  

Yogis often take ahimsa to mean that they should be vegan. While it is good for many people and for the planet to be vegan, it is not for everyone. This is difficult because if a vegan diet is not right for your body, adopting a vegan diet may be detrimental to your health. However, I do think that it does no harm to be vegan one day each week and it does help the planet since it takes more of the earth's resources to produce meat than grain. I do not believe we need to eat animal protein more than once a day. If you do eat meat and fish, you should ensure that it is responsibly sourced, that is the animal has had a 'good' life and was killed humanely.

The planet should be a concern to all of us. Our lovely planet is struggling with global warming partly caused by deforestation, overuse of fossil fuels etc. The result is melting ice caps, animals in danger of extinction, food shortages, changes in the weather, changes in the ocean currents and wildlife etc. Since I have been living in the countryside, I have felt really close to nature, loving it more each day. Every day there are subtle changes as season melts into season. Sometimes I am greatly saddened by what I see. This year the blue tit pair in my garden built their nest, laid their eggs but did not incubate them. I have talked to various people about this and the general opinion seems to be that there must not have been enough caterpillars for them or at least the right sort of caterpillar. This has left me wondering if because of global warming the birds and the source of food for their young has got out of sync, that is the caterpillars are arriving too late for the birds to successfully breed. 

We can all do a little to help. Even if it is just leaving a patch of our lawn to grow wild for the bees, which are now in decline, not leaving electrical appliances on standby, turning down the central heating down a little, or making a home for wildlife.  

Janet x

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