ahimsa, or the art of not repeatedly hitting yourself in the head with a hammer

all right already! i get it! i finally understand that i might be a bit too hard on myself with all my yo-kour running around and jumping, jumping, jumping! what brought me to this point (‘finally!’ you say)? well, i sort of resprained my ankle and it hurt a lot. a lot, a lot. i experienced a temporary, all-systems shut down and i also may have said something like ‘f%ck, f%ck, f%ck, f%ck, f%ck, f%ck, f%ck!’

fortunately, ashtanga yoga provides us with an 8-limbed framework that we can practice to (eventually) attain enlightenment. most of us start with the physical practice of asana, or postures. most of us bypass the first 2 limbs describing the basic moral groundwork, which i’ve blogged a bit about here. right now i’m at an impasse because, due to injuries (from yoga and parkour), my physical asana practice is becoming inaccessible. i need to work smarter not harder.

square one

the first yama of the first limb is ahimsa or non-violence. starting with me. in other words: the great thing about hitting yourself in the head over and over with a hammer is that it feels really good when you stop. ta-dah! enlightenment!

don’t get me wrong, i feel great! i love yoga, i love parkour, i love life! but i’m feeling a bit rough around the edges. i have some nagging old injuries that aren’t resolving and some new ones that aren’t healing. i don’t leave my yoga practice feeling light and invigorated, and i’m not able to learn new elements in parkour. (and, by the way, i start my new job monday.)

my clever plan

oddly, my injuries aren’t affecting my parkour training, mostly because i’m staying away from the higher impact elements and focusing on strength training, technique, and flow. on the other hand you wouldn’t believe how much a primary series practice is affected by a sprained ankle. and how much my back-bends are affected by that chin vs. floor incident during a yoga class last february. the strength training in pk also keeps that niggling sciatic/lower back yoga injury at bay.

so i’m going to stick with the conditioning elements of pk to keep up my strength and body awareness, and to get me out of the house. and i’m going to practice yoga, but not asana. now is a great opportunity to explore two other limbs: pranayama and dharana. two limbs i have specifically resisted practicing for some time now.

pranayama means control of the breath. by controlling our breathing we control the life force (prana) within us. pranayama focuses the mind and grounds one in the present moment. in ashtanga vinyasa practice we use ujjayi pranayama, but now i’ll be taking breath control to the next level, twice a day for 20-30 minutes. 

dharana is meditation or single point of focus. i resisted this practice because of time constraints not because i didn’t like sitting still and silent for 20 minutes at a time, if you can believe that. meditation also grounds you and brings you deeper self-awareness. so i’ll be self-aware twice a day for 2o minutes until further notice.

am i giving up my asana practice? no, it will always be there when i need it, and i will need it soon. on the flip side, i’m wondering how breath control and meditation will affect my pk practice, with increased focus and concentration i might be less prone to injury. this could get interesting.

most importantly i’m going to be practicing ahimsa, non-violence to self. because there’s only one of me and i have to last a lifetime.

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