When we started yoga theory several weeks ago, I came across two interesting theory under 8 limbs of yoga – Niyama: Ahimsa and Santosha.
Ahimsa is the total and complete absence of violence from one’s mind, body, and spirit. For violence, it includes physical and mental violence. Violence can be obvious, like hurting someone physically or verbally and this kind of violence is easy to “cure”. What is scarier is the violence that comes from “good intention” or “non-violent” intention that eventually lead to harm to one’s physical and/or mental health.
Santosha – contentment. It should be noted that contentment does not automatically mean overly satisfied so that one has no motivation to improve.
For me, in order to practice Ahimsa, Santosha is one of the key.
I remember that Yoga became my little obsession after I nailed several advanced poses. I went to class two to three times a day, practice whenever I could (even in the washroom during my work break – ya, I should come up with a yoga guide on how to practice yoga in the most random places – that will come later probably), and even thinking of yoga during the most unexpected situations. Sometimes, I did yoga in my mind, by coming up with strategies on how to do certain poses (yes, I am a science student). However, any obsession of any kind won’t be a good thing, and it hits me as hard as it could – I injured my left hand by trying to do firefly pose. An instructor pushed me from behind while I was trying to lift up and I fell forward and bended my left hand. I was told by the doctor not to do any activity that would put presser on my left hand, that including yoga. Did I follow the instruction? Of course not. I still carried on my daily practice despite the sharp pain on my left fingers and it came as no surprise that my hand situation never got better and it deterious. I was sad and worried that the yoga would leave me behind and all I had achieved before would all be gone.
During that emotional period, I came across an article written by one of the yoga instructors on how not to practice yoga. She had the same obsession as me until she realized that the same kind of obsession stopped her from moving on.
I realise that happened to me is the mere practice of physical asana without studying the real yoga. In a nutshell, it is a product of lack of practicing Santosh. To be very honest, during my obsession period, I was not able to focus on other things, including work, family and myself. Not able to take practicing yoga from my mind, all I did was to fulfill my self-esteem by nailing down poses, hard poses. I never took a break and appreciated my body for what it had offered. This eventually led to a non-practice of Ahimsa, as I was hurt physically and emotionally by my own will.
Look back, I have learnt so much from a short 8 months practice and been amazed by my own body so many times. I started to love myself more as yoga has added another dimension to it. Being content of what I have today through the past practice, I stopped the “violence” towards my own body and started to practice yoga and any other physical exercise moderately. That’s how I see the practice of Ahimsa through Santosha.