Playful Practice

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Ahimsa

on July 28, 2014

Ahimsa = Non Violence. Yogis say that iF you can master Ahimsa there is no need for any other practice in yoga, all practices are within Ahimsa. If we could get kids to practice Ahimsa off the mat we’d be looking a much more peaceful future. Not being violent seems pretty self explanatory, but it’s not just in our actions that we practice this…
I opened class by asking the kids for examples of a time they felt they had practiced Ahimsa, or non-violence. I got answers like “last night I was unloading the dishwasher with my brother and he kept poking me or bumping into me, just picking on me and I wanted to turn around and hit him but I didn’t” and “Maybe if some kids were throwing rocks or something at some other kids I wouldn’t do it because someone could get hurt.” Non-violence in our actions is something I think we expect as parents and educators, but kids can have a hard time regulating emotions and it bears repeating that violence is not OK.
Then I asked, “How else can we practice non-violence besides in our actions?”. I got some puzzled faces and then an enthusiastic hand went up. “We could only say nice things to people and not say means things or talk bad about people!” This is exactly what I was looking for. Non-violence in our words. I have seen our local schools do some wonderful things with anti-bullying initiatives and I applaud getting that message out. By discussing Ahimsa in regards to our words we are strengthening the knowledge that words can hurt and we should choose them wisely.
I asked again, “How else can we practice Ahimsa besides actions and words?” This one took some prodding… I reminded them of the situation with the sibling picking on them and asked if they thought of hitting them back before deciding not to. Hands then shot up! Non-violence with our thoughts. They got it. Peace starts from within. We have to think peaceful thoughts, to speak peaceful words and act with peace.
I even had some examples of how we could practice Ahimsa with our Earth, but not treating our environment with kindness. This is something I had planned on discussing with another of the yamas but it fit beautifully here as well and showed me the girls were really looking for ways to find meaning in this new word and how they would use it.
Now since this is Girl Power Yoga I had to end with the following story:
This is a story about Ahimsa told in the Vedas, the vast collection of ancient philosophical teachings from India. It is about a sadhu, a wandering monk who would make a yearly circuit to a number of villages in order to teach. One day as he entered a village, he saw a large and menacing snake. The snake was terrorizing the villagers and making their life difficult. The sadhu spoke to the snake and taught him about Ahimsa; it was a lesson that the snake heard and took to heart. The following year when the sadhu made his annual visit to the village, he again saw the snake. How changed he was. Now this once magnificent snake was skinny and bruised. The sadhu asked the snake what had happened to cause such a change in his appearance. The snake replied that he had taken the teaching of Ahimsa to heart and had realized the error of his ways. Thus he had stopped terrorizing the village. Because he was no longer menacing, the children now threw rocks at him and taunted him. He could hardly hunt and was afraid of leaving his hiding place. The sadhu shook his head wisely and said that while he had indeed taught the importance and power of practicing Ahimsa, he had never told the snake not to hiss.

They added that they should stick up for someone being bullied, or get help from a teacher or stand up for themselves if they were being bullied.

So the message to our class was to practice Ahimsa in our thoughts, words and actions, but to not be afraid to stand strong!

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