In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali described the eight limbs of Yoga. The first limb of yoga is ahimsa, the practice of Non-violence or Kindness to ourselves, others, and the environment. Unless one is firmly rooted in ahimsa in one’s thoughts, speech and actions, the true practice of yoga cannot begin. To me, ahimsa has always been a guiding principle in life, one that I would also like to impart to my children.
I interpret it in three-fold:
- Be kind to oneself
- Be kind to others
- Be kind to Mother Earth and her inhabitants
The reminder “Be kind to oneself” applies vigorously to me. Before I had an accident in 2012 which resulted in a sacroiliac joint disorder, I considered myself to have a strong and flexible spine, plunging carelessly into any challenging backbend sequence. Subsequently after my fall, with a much weaker pelvic but an unchanged mindset, it began to result in a series of injuries sometimes lasting a month or more. I started to practise self-observation and addressed the experiences I was having.
The author’s son in Raja Bhujanghasana. A pose he enjoys practising daily.
Flexibility in the spine is a journey, not a destination. Today I approach the mat differently and am accepting of my body. One application of Ahimsa in a backbend pose is the invigorating and healing King Cobra pose (Raja Bhujanghasana). This pose activates the heart chakra and safely (thanks to the prone position) works into the upper thoracic. At the same time, it also requires a degree of patience to open the shoulders and chest. As my heart chakra opens, I experience a sense of self-gratitude, acceptance and calm. My spine isn’t ready to fully articulate into the final version of King Cobra today but I believe it will someday, maybe when my feet will touch my head.
Love x Peace.
200Hr Weekday, Sept 2017