February: Ahimsa & Valentine’s Day

ahimsaFebruary, whether we like it or not, is the month of mushy gushies and candy hearts. It is unavoidable for those who are heartbroken and oh so accessible for those who are hopelessly in love. The truth of it all though, is that love rules our lives whether it’s February 14th or not.

We are all products of an act of great love.

In Patanjali’s yoga sutras, ahimsa is the very first yama- making complete sense because, as life teaches, after an initial act of love, all the other work begins. Ahimsa, or loving kindness and non-violence, is the first ‘step’ to creation, manifestation and spiritual fulfillment.

This year, I’ve been trying to look at Valentine’s day and February in general as ‘ahimsa’ month (not that it should be limited to one month- i’m just focusing especially on it!) I’ve been devoting myself to moments of love, both on and off the mat. I must say, it’s not easy- especially when the internal voice turns toward condemnation and judgement. However, as love is the catalyst for all other ‘work’, I’m trusting that a month (or a few days if you want) focused on loving kindness will bring that creative energy, manifest some dreams and bring some peace.ย ahimsa3.jpg

ON THE MAT AHIMSA PRACTICE

If you are hoping for a generalized asana practice here, you won’t be finding it. Asana, or the physical postures of yoga, benefit all humansย differentlyย and I don’t believe my ahimsa asana practice is the perfect fit for everyone. Ahimsa is about tuning into yourself and finding your true path of self love- that may be a rigorous asana practice OR a softer one.

Instead, here I offer a few ways to find that connection with the self- so you may discern what is best for your body. These modes of connection will come in the form of pranayama (breath) and guided exploration. I practice these before my asana practice- they help bring more love to the movement, truly making it a ‘yoga’ practice and not simply a good stretch.

Dirga Pranayama: 3 Part Breath: Yogic Breath

  1. come to comfortable position- this may be seated or reclined, however if reclined try not to fall asleep! ๐Ÿ™‚
  2. Breathe normally, as you were before coming to this practice. No restrictions, no ‘trying’. ย How does the breath feel? Is it fast? Slow? Warm or cool? Bring your awareness to it in observation- never judgement- and know that this flow is what keeps you moving, thinking, ‘being’ all day.
  3. Bring your hands- one to your low belly and one to your chest (if comfortable). Allow the inhale breath to flow deep into the belly. Fill your entire belly with air then, once full, allow that air to begin filling the lungs – keeping the belly full still. Once both belly and lungs are full, bring the air (if possible) to the throat or collar bones. How does your body feel when it is this ‘expanded’? is there discomfort? is there energy?
  4. Begin to exhale slowly, letting the collar ‘deflate’ first, then the chest, then the belly. How does the body feel now? Take a moment in the space in between to notice.
  5. Repeat this, brining awareness to different aspects of the breath, the body and of course, your thoughts. Bring as much love and acceptance to the practice as possible, perhaps repeating some sort of mantra for every repetition. I’ve been using the mantra ” AHAM PREMA” meaning ‘I am divine love” (which we all are). I internally repeat it in those moments of space in between breath ‘action’ (between inhale and exhale).
  6. When you have practiced to your limit, with ease, come back to your natural breath. What is different from the list you took at the beginning? What do you notice? Give yourself thanks and slowly, and oh-so lovingly, come to your asana practice.

OFF THE MAT AHIMSA PRACTICE

This month I have allowed myself an abundance of time to do one thing a day that I thoroughly enjoy and am able to connect to a deeper sense of myself within. This usually takes a creative form- writing or painting or cooking. Some believe ahimsa to mean non-violence to all creatures big or small off the mat- which I believe as well however, I also don’t think vegetarianism and veganism is all that accessible to every single person.

Off that mat ahimsa has to do with intention. What is the intention you are preforming this task with. Is your intention violent towards yourself- are you doing it to just get it over with or to escape some perceived ‘ugly’ part of yourself? or is your intention loving- you are doing it to deepen some sense of self understanding or connection? Your entire day can’t consist of this- mine certainly can’t. We all have to do things we don’t ‘want to do’ or that doesn’t necessarily bring ‘us closer to ourselves’.ย We have to work and take care of our families and so on… however, I’ve been taking one thing per day (outside of ‘yoga’) that brings in that little bit of love light. Whether its 5 minutes before bed or when you wake up- take a little ahimsa time- something that brings you a little closer to loving kindness for yourself.

ahimsa

2016:Online Dating my Travel Destinations

It is February and winter is here in full snowy, blustery, face chilling force. On my down time between work, yoga teacher training, school projects and preparing for my next practicums I am PLANNING. and DREAMING. and WISHING. and HOPING.

By April, I will be done all academic studies. Ever. Like done done. Like, maybe i’ll come back sometime in my 50s but certainly not ANYTIME soon kind of done. This is the MOST exciting thing to me. I have been waiting for this day since year two when I started questioning myself in university. I needed a ‘find yourself’ kind of year and instead waited for a ‘find yourself’ kind of life. April, in a small ( and very dramatic) sense, is my rebirth. It’s the time to stop glorifying being ‘busy’ and do things that are PRODUCTIVE to my happiness.

Starting with travel dreams. I’m still only 22, you see, and have that wanderlust bug that all early 20 year olds in my generation seem to catch. Its an airborne, viral sort of thing I think.

Here are the top 5 places and spots I am thoroughly, completely, online dating type of in love with (because for some of them, we’ve never met but they sure look great & I can totally picture our future together).

1. SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, USAsan-franc.jpg

Que me dancing around to Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco (be sure to wear flowers in your hair)” and saying “I’m in love and don’t care who knows it!”. San Francisco’s dating profile reads like a colourful, adventurous, granola crunching, toe ring wearing, gonna love ya and leave ya kind of destination. ย Right up my ally. My best friend and I have been planning a road trip, in which we end up here and get tattoos (or just I get a tattoo and she gets my company). All the markets, all the painted houses, all the hippies and bookstores a girl could ever ask for.

2. GREECEย Greek-City-At-Night.jpg

I want to do this one with my blue and white Mama. It is our mother daughter getaway. truthfully any beach destination would work but Greece offers her spirit colours- blue and white. And greek yoghurt with honey.

3. COSTA RICA

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This one has been on my list since I didn’t get to go on a school trip in grade 9. It was heartbreaking and Costa Rica has been on my mind ever since. This is a trip where I bring no bras & no make up. Where everything is how it was created and I fall deeply in love and never ever want to leave.

4. KAUAI & MAUI, HAWAII

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Ahhhhh Hawaii. Iย wentย to Oahu 2 years ago and August of 2016 is the time to hit 2 more islands with my boyfriend and his family! Tickets are booked and I am READY. Hawaii really speaks to my inner Anne-Marie from Blue Crush (obviously) and this time I think some surfing is in order. Last time we swam with sharks and it was UNBELIEVABLE. Plus the food was so good and the beaches were beautiful and I saw sea turtles…. I could go on forever.

5. LAKE LOUISE, ALBERTA

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Now, I’ve made a pact with myself that every time I create my travel dreams for the year I will add a new Canadian place I have never been. I have never been west Canada and Lake Louise is like, my numero uno. Calm, serene, mountainous Lake Louise. I’ll be all cozy in cabin sweater sipping a coffee over looking the lake… Isn’t that just the perfect picture? Doesn’t it just scream CANADA? I think so.

As I flip through their little profiles I fall more and more in love. My heart is warm and happy and I feel like I can get through the next few months.

After all, February is the month for warm fuzzy feelings.