Cultivate Self-Compassion & Deepen Your Yoga Practice With Ahimsa

This is my simple religion. 

There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. 

Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. 

-His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Ahimsa is the yogic discipline of benevolence, non-harming, and non-violence.

It’s the first step in the practice of true Yoga and is the first of 5 Yamas or self-regulating behaviors: 

1) Ahimsa (non-violence) 

2) Satya (truthfulness) 

3) Asteya (even-exchange, non-stealing)

4) Aparigraha (non-attachment) 

5) Brahmacharya (non-excess)

The Yamas are the first of 8 major limbs or stages outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – the earliest known codification of yoga practice and also known as classical yoga written somewhere around the third century AD:

The Yamas (the first limb of yoga) and the Niyamas (the second limb of yoga, personal training) both are considered the backbone of the ethical standards and guidelines for true yoga practice:

1) Saucha (cleanliness) 

2) Santosha (contentment) 

3) Tapas (self-discipline)

4) Svadhyaya (self-study) 

5) Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender and dedication)

Given today’s modern yoga culture, it’s easy to mistake asana (postures) practice for true yoga practice in its entirety (observing all points of the 8-Limbed Path):

But you don’t need to be able to do a handstand to be a yogi, and you don’t need to turn vegan to practice ahimsa.

The practice of ahimsa actually starts within – by directing loving-kindness towards ourselves first.

You can incorporate ahimsa into your daily life by… becoming your own best friend.

Have you heard of the saying “as within, so without”?

It means that your internal world creates your outer world.

So the world will reflect back to you the way you treat yourself internally.

Through the daily practice of ahimsa, you can increase your own sense of well-being.

Treating yourself with compassion is powerful. 

And while it’s relatively easier to observe this practice of benevolence and non-hatred in relation to others, it tends to be more challenging in relation to ourselves.

We can be our biggest critic, judge, and bully.

Think of the beliefs you hold about yourself.

The tone of your internal dialogue.

How do you speak to yourself?

What messages do you send to your body?

What thoughts swim around in your mind when you catch your reflection in the mirror?

Every time we think “not enough” we unleash a small internal burst of violent energy.

But… we can change that pattern.

We can change how we relate to ourselves.

We can choose to be kinder to ourselves.

We can choose to wish ourselves well.

We can combat inner violence with heartfelt gratitude.

Gratitude is like a muscle, the more you work it the stronger it gets.

[BG Music: Chris Zabriskie, “The Temperature of the Air on the Bow of the Kaleetan,” Licensed under Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0), https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/]

AHIMSA YOGA: A SELF-COMPASSION PRACTICE 

Take a moment for yourself – to come home to yourself.

It’s time to stop what you’re doing and go inwards.

Sit comfortably and upright.

Close your eyes and place both hands over your heart or join palms together to form Anjali mudra.

Notice whatever sensations are present.

Maybe you can sense, hear, or feel the pulse of your heartbeat.

See if you can feel the subtle rise and fall of your chest as you inhale and exhale.

Follow your inhales and exhales and breathe with full attention and awareness.

Engage your lower belly as you inhale so that it expands outwardly and contracts inwardly towards your spine with each exhale.

Imagine the palms of your hands radiating warm light into your chest.

Picture it penetrating each layer until the light reaches your heart.

Feel that for a moment.

Stay present with it.

Be fully present as you nurture your own heart with your own light.

Now begin to direct loving-kindness and good intentions towards yourself.

Repeat after me (either out loud or internally):

May I be healthy.

May I find inspiration.

May I love and feel loved.

May I create my own fulfillment. 

May I learn from pain.

And again…

May I be healthy.

May I find inspiration.

May I love and feel loved.

May I create my own fulfillment. 

May I learn from pain.

And again…

May I be healthy.

May I find inspiration.

May I love and feel loved.

May I create my own fulfillment. 

May I learn from pain.

Once more:

May I be healthy.

May I find inspiration.

May I love and feel loved.

May I create my own fulfillment. 

May I learn from pain.

And so it is, and so it will be.

Sat nam.

I am truth.

We are truth.

Cultivating Compassion

Entry #5

Cultivating Compassion

How do we cultivate compassion for ourselves? The secret lies in forgiveness.

Life isn’t perfect.  Or perhaps it is, but we don’t see it that way.  Let’s say that life doesn’t always go the way we want it to, and when it doesn’t, that’s when the critical mind jumps in and says, “It shouldn’t be this way!”  Then we get upset because it’s “not going right”, it’s not matching the picture in our mind of how life “should” be.  In these times when there is a fundamental gap between our idea of how life should go and how life IS going, we judge it as wrong.  We resist it.  And in our resistance there is suffering.  Or we are attached to an idea of how it should be and miss hidden opportunities because they don’t fit our picture of the HOW it’s SUPPOSED be happening.  Inside of both of these scenarios there is suffering.


In reading ancient Yogic texts I’ve been able to discern that consistently the most basic cause for suffering is a dual dose of discontent that arises from either attachment or resistance.  We attach to how it should be and we resist what is, and so it isn’t perfect.   Suffering also arises from our self -judgment, self -loathing and our frustration with our current life situation, which for most of us reading this, is some form of struggle with conceiving.


Whenever I am feeling judgmental of myself or (anyone else for that matter),

I find that practicing of loving kindness can shift the energy or thought pattern from being stuck in the feeling, “It will always be this way” to one of hope and a softening around my heart.  The practice is as simple as saying out loud or to your self, “I forgive myself, for judging myself for________. “ Fill in the blank.  If you are stumped these are some popular ones.  I forgive myself for judging myself for:

· Being mad at my body

· Being jealous of my friends with babies

· Wanting to blame and berate my husband

· Feeling out of control

· Being angry

· Feeling hopeless


You get the picture.  In a way what you are doing is “mothering yourself “by holding a place of compassion for the part of you that is suffering.  Know that this is a momentary part of your life that will pass and you will get to the other side.  Learning to be soft with how difficult this is helps to cultivate compassion through forgiveness.  Forgiving yourself for feeling what you do is the first step in not being overrun by your feelings.


Practicing Positive Mothering

My last blog was about cultivating compassion and forgiveness for how we judge ourselves. Many therapists have called this judgmental voice inside of our selves as the “critical mother”. It is the part of us that believes that we essentially aren’t good enough and should be doing better than we are.

When we were growing up, depending on our relationship with our mother, for some of us this voice is very clear in our head. It’s the voice that says: “don’t be stupid”, “why aren’t you more like your sister”, “you need to fix your hair”, “you need to lose weight”, “you didn’t do it right”, “you are or aren’t _____________”. It is the stream of conscious or unconscious thoughts that say- “I’m stupid, a failure, unlovable, undeserving, hopeless and a mess”.


This type of negative self-talk ultimately breeds despair, self-loathing and depression. For those of us who are in pursuit of having a baby and finding ourselves on the rollercoaster ride of reproductive difficulties, this voice can be especially strong and potentially devastating to our self-esteem and damage our chances of success. Recently a study showed that the main reason couples didn’t return for multiple rounds of IVF or assisted reproductive therapies was not for financial reasons, but emotional ones. They didn’t have the emotional support internally to withstand the challenges they were facing.


Back in January, I started teaching a 4-week course in Los Angeles at Two Hearts Yoga Studio, that I teach monthly for women undergoing reproductive difficulties. I’ve been teaching yoga for fertility for over 10 years now, but what marked this particular course as different, was that I had a phone call that morning from my sister saying that our mother was dying.


I did not have a critical mother. I was blessed with a compassionate, demonstrative, supportive and loving mother. I was emotionally so full of my mothers essence that class, that I realized that if we can learn to love ourselves unconditionally (as a mother would), we could give ourselves the emotional support we need to face what ever challenges lay before us on the path to becoming mothers. uot;clear: both; padding: 0px; margin: 0px;">In addition to this nurturing, soothing, and deep self care for ourselves, we would in essence, be mothering ourselves and in turn it would prepare us for when we are inevitably holding that baby in our arms, regardless of how it got there. This idea of mothering self-love creates a field of attraction that in a way is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we treat our selves as we would a newborn, listening to our needs, soothing ourselves when we are emotionally upset, holding ourselves with kindness, we begin to create a template of nurturing that will help us to build an emotional well that can withstand the challenges of the fertility journey.

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Practicing positive mothering skills with your self and your partner will ensure that when that baby is finally in your arms, it will be much easier to deal with the stress of parenting and the needs of a newborn.