A Lesson in Ahimsa

by Cevia Yellin

       Just about a year ago, I underwent a major surgery. As I made preparations to be out of work for possibly several months, I shared my situation with Diane Butera, and she immediately found coverage for my gentle & restorative class. She assured me that I was not alone, and that my class would be there for me when I was ready to return.
       A month after surgery, Diane checked in. I was having severe side effects from the procedure, as predicted by my doctors, and told her that I was not ready to teach.  I felt bad, though she told me not to worry.
AhimsaOne should not do anything that will put others into distress. This includes the self,  I tried to acknowledge.
       A little over a month later, we checked in again. I was still not ready. Though my doctors had told me it would be at least six weeks of recovery, and 10-12 before I should consider teaching yoga again, I had trouble allowing myself the time, accepting that it was normal and okay to need even more than that.
       Ahimsa, I thought to myself. No one is judging you except YOU. Turn the compassion you hold for others towards yourself.
       When I told Diane that I didn’t know when I would be ready to teach again, apologizing for not having an answer, she replied, “I don’t know” IS an answer”. When I talked to Laura Black, who was subbing for me, her response was the same. “I’ll just plan to teach the class until you tell me you’re ready” she offered without hesitation. Waves of relief washed over me.
I took the time I needed to heal.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
       When I began teaching again three and a half months after surgery, I was still experiencing much of the predicted effects, though thankfully, much less severely. I worried, however, that I was not in good enough “shape” to teach, that my practice was not adequate to guide students in theirs, that I didn’t have the emotional  strength to hold space for others.
Ahimsato further spiritual happiness…
       I found the opposite to be true. I was touched by the warm welcome back I received from students and colleagues. I tried to accept myself and my body for what and where it is in the course of this life, as I would encourage others to do. And I found energy and strength in holding space for those who seek to practice – just as they are – just as I am.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
       The practice of ahimsa includes the protection of the self and others, and its corresponding yoga asana is Virabhadrasana I (hero/warrior with great virtue).
To bring ahimsa into your asana practice, hold Warrior I with its corresponding mudra, Padma (lotus), by bringing your hands to your heart and opening your palms and fingers into the shape of the flower.
       If mantra is part of your practice, chant lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu (may all beings in all realms experience the feeling state of ease) while in the pose. Meditate on what it means to direct the energy of a warrior toward the earth and all beings –  including yourself.

The Bagavad Gita As It Is, Chapter 10.4-5 by His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabupāda
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra: How to Live by the Yamas by Judith Lasater (Yoga Journal)
Nurture Ahimsa (Non-Harming) on the Mat, by Coral Brown (Yoga Journal)

March 2019