Practicing non-violence

Jason Crandall, in one of his yoga podcasts, explains that yoga poses inevitably bring resistance, but rather than pushing through that resistance, rather than forcing your way into a pose, instead, let the resistance bring awareness to your limitations. In yoga, as in life, when we meet resistance, we want to push our way through. We live in a culture where, when you encounter something unpleasant or difficult, we want to muscle our way to the other side. Maybe, instead, we can take a lesson from Jason Crandall, and we can meet that resistance with awareness, we can go to our edge, and learn from that place; not move past our edge, not force our way into something that will hurt us by doing so, just trying and realizing when we have met the limit of our strength or flexibility, and stop. And breathe.

Yoga for me is a lesson. Years ago when I was practicing yoga 3-5 times/week, before children, I was able to touch my nose to my knee, I was able to bend down and touch my toes and touch my chest to my thighs and feel flexible and confident and like I was doing it "right." Not so any more. Now I can bend over and I can touch my toes, but only after warming up for a bit. Now, when my legs are stretched out in front of me, my nose is nowhere near my knee. These limitations are humbling. They're a reminder of what I used to be able to do but can do no more, of my growing older, of the passage of time, of the new (and often welcome but sometimes not) intrusions into my life that no longer allow me the ability to go to a yoga class 3 times a week for 2 hours at a time. My yogic limitations are a reminder to me of where I am now, as opposed to where I used to be.

But one of the lessons of yoga is doing no harm. One of the fundamental teachings that you will hear from yogi to yogini across the nation, across the world, is this teaching of "ahimsa", non-violence. Ahimsa reminds us to do no harm not just too others, but to ourselves as well. We learn in yoga that we should work to our "edge" not past it. We learn in yoga to appreciate where we are today and how different that may be from yesterday, or two weeks ago or ten years ago. We learn in yoga to move until we hit our edge, and to breathe into it, right as it is, not one inch before or one after. To be where we are, to settle in, to stop, to listen to ourselves and our bodies and to be quiet with that place.

What if we took the lessons from the yoga mat and applied them to our lives? What if we could challenge ourselves to reach our limit, to reach our edge and to stop, and not push past? What if we could see where we are and appreciate the beauty in that and not long for days gone by when we could do more, not look to the future to see if we can have more and be more? What if we could reach our edge and settle in and appreciate the present and appreciate ourselves and appreciate where our life has taken us, to today, to this minute, to this present. It's not an easy lesson to learn. My mind is more comfortable comparing where I am today with where my life used to be, to thinking about what the future holds and how I want to get there sooner rather than later. I have difficulty staying in this moment, sensing what's around me now, looking at where I am, eyes cast inward, not backward or forward. But the lesson I learned on the yoga mat today, is that at least I am trying, at least I'm in the game, at least I have taken on the challenge to begin anew; the lesson is that my limit today may not be what it was yesterday or what it will be tomorrow, but it is where I am today and really, today and this moment is all that matters.

Today I will try to remember to breathe, to close my eyes, to stop and listen. Today I will try to remember non-violence to myself mostly and to others as a consequence of that. I may not succeed, in fact, I'm sure I won't for the entire day, but I will try in this moment. And trying and practicing is how lives are lived each day.

This is the life.