In a few of my previous blog posts, I’ve mentioned the idea of Ahimsa, or nonviolence, and how it’s really been a game changer for me in terms of beating some of my self-destructive habits. Ahimsa is the first of the Yamas (essentially ethical guidelines) that make up make up the first limb of the 8 limbs of yoga.To keep it simple, this is yoga philosophy, the part that goes beyond just doing poses and having an excuse to wear leggings 24/7. This fall I’ve committed to teaching a yoga class series that dives deeper into the first two limbs (the Yamas and Niyamas). I’ve started to really dig into the idea of Ahimsa and how being a little more nonviolent both on and off my yoga mat have helped make my life better. I want to support YOU in finding the same for yourself. 🙂

When I think about violence I think about all the things that make me cringe. Explosions and machine guns. Blood. Terrorism. All those sad pictures of abused dogs. The ideas of killing and doing physical harm to others are easily understood as being wrong. But there are more subtle ways that violence can creep into itself your life, sometimes without you even realizing. So if you feel like you could use a little more peace and kindness in your life, here are some simple ways that you can use the idea of Ahimsa to make some upgrades right now.

Conquer your fears.

Violence is often a result of fear. A few weeks ago, when I wrote a blog post about body positivity’s relationship to racism , someone took the time to point out to me that people often commit hateful acts because of their own personal fears and insecurities. While this is not an excuse, working to conquer our own fears and expand our world view can go a long way in reducing our chances of projecting these fears onto others.

Expand your horizons on what you view as normal.

Expose yourself to different types of people. Want to start doing this right now? Follow people on social media who are of different shapes, sizes, races, genders, ages, abilities, sexual orientations, or have different views than you. Strike up conversations with people you normally wouldn’t. Ask someone how their day is going, or for their opinion.

Remember that when people do things that hurt you, it is often out of fear.

There is something strangely comforting about this. So often, when someone does wrong by us, it is more about their $hit than ours. Right away I think of the owner of a competing dance studio across town who uses shady marketing tactics to entice students from other schools. Fear can bring out the worst in people. Remembering that it’s not always about you personally can help give you the grace to take the high road.

Try New and different activities.

Especially ones that are out of your comfort zone. Having courage doesn’t mean you are never afraid. It means that you don’t let that fear stop you from doing what you really want to do. It could be skydiving, walking into a new fitness studio or gym  for the first time, writing a really vulnerable blog post, or just having a difficult conversation. Be afraid and do it anyway.

feeling powerless? become competent Instead of violent.

This is how I came to do what I do and write about the topics on this blog. When hypothyroidism derailed me from my final attempt at dieting, I felt really frustrated. I can remember having a meltdown on floor of a closet in yoga studio because I had just finished a Whole 30 and my shorts were tighter than ever. I could have locked myself in my bedroom throwing around my ill-fitting pants in a fit of rage. Instead I read books, listened to podcasts, and learned everything I could about the thyroid. Then I found myself a good doctor to help me manage symptoms, and started working on my body image in the meantime. A temporary loss of control can often lead to a great period of growth.

Find Balance.

Make sure you are sleeping enough, eating enough, working enough, and playing enough. I am the meanest when I am hungry. I mean I get HANGRY. Same goes for when I’m tired or haven’t had a day off in awhile. On the flip side, I also tend to get really self-critical when I’m not working enough. It’s like boredom cues the inner critic. The point is, finding the right balance of work and play and kale and cake is gold. Only you know what that looks like for you.

Stop Wearing Busy as a badge of honor.

Too busy. Two words that leave my mouth more often than I’d like. In fact, they usually come out around those moments when I’m being short with my husband as I rush out the door while complaining about the socks he left on the floor. When we fill all of the space in our schedules, we forget to leave time time for things that come up like traffic (insert road rage), or watching a funny youtube video, or even just making a damn smoothie to take for the road.

Say No.

I’ve slowly learned that saying no to things doesn’t make me a rude or selfish person. In fact, saying no to things that I’m not super enthused about gives me space to say yes to the things that really light me up. Same goes for you. The more we curate our calendars, the better we are able to give the best of ourselves to the people and causes that matter to us.

Love yourself.

(I knowwww…GAG)

Or at the very least work on not hating on yourself. I still maintain that indifference is often a good route to accepting the qualities about ourselves that we can’t quite begin to embrace. (I even wrote a blog post about it!) If we want to be able to fully find compassion for others (the next step) it starts with this.

Practice Self-care.

It doesn’t have to mean bubble baths and pedicures. It could be as simple as making yourself an actual hot meal that you sit down and eat the same way you would if you were cooking for your family. Or going to sleep when you are tired. Or treating yourself to your favorite delicious beverage–mine’s nitro cold brew coffee. 😉

Loosen the reigns on Perfectionism.

Last Tuesday while teaching yoga, I accidentally kicked over a candle. Broken class and wax all over the floor. And the students, who had been knocked right out of their zen were so quick to make sure I was ok. The owner came in and cleaned it up so I could keep teaching. As I left, I apologized again for being a hot mess. Another teacher was like. “Stop. You are a goddess.” Yes. And ohhhh how I needed those words in that moment. Constantly trying to “fix” ourselves keeps us stuck in a vicious cycle of never quite measuring up. We deserve the same love and kindness that we want to give to our families and friends.

Have compassion for others.

Support others to be the best version of themselves.

That’s the version that THEY want to be —not just the life we want for them. I need to remind myself of this one, every time I talk to one of my friends about their relationship troubles. I’m so quick to get angry when my friends are having guy problems, that all I want to do is fix them. “Girl, you could do so much better! For the last time will you please just BREAK UP WITH HIM?!” In actuality, what they really need for me to do is just…

listen.

Talk less, listen more. Is there really more to say? Many people become loud and violent because they just want to feel heard. I think that’s what we all really want. To have a home for our thoughts and feel validated. In a world where so many conversations happen behind a computer screen and in a language of emoji’s, this is huge.

Broaden your world view.

Travel. Seeing how other people live their lives can help you appreciate your own. It can also help you find things that you’d like to bring back from your adventures and into your life. You don’t even have to go abroad to make this happen. Even different Chicago neighborhoods have a distinctly unique feel and culture. Regardless of whether you go to the South Loop or South Africa, broadening your world view makes it easier to interact and deal with all types of people.

treat the earth well.

Leave things a little better than you found them. You don’t have to go full vegan or join the Peace Corps. Pick up a candy wrapper when you pick up after your dog. Cut the plastic rings from a 6 pack so that little ducks don’t get their necks caught. Whatever your cause, remember that the little things add up too.

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”

This is one of my favorite quotes, and I wish I know who said it. When I was in yoga teacher training, I lived in a yurt on a mountain for two weeks. As you might imagine, I got to know the other women in the training really well, and needless to say, we ALL had some baggage. Some very surprising and unexpected. The way people present themselves to the world on social media, in line at Target, or even at work, tells you little about their lives and their past. We’ve all got $hit. Kindess is SO very needed.

Side note: This post was inspired by the book The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice by Deborah Adele, which I’ve been reading recently. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about yoga philosophy in an easy-to-digest format.

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