Can you treat yourself better?

Trick question. Of course you can. We can all be a bit nicer to ourselves.

Yoga’s code of ethics, the Namas (things to avoid) and Niyamas (things to observe), give us a road map to becoming our best selves.  The first Nama is called “Ahimsa,” the practice of non-violence. When I first learned about Ahimsa, my mind immediately brought up ways I could be kinder to others. I could do a better job of sendinahimsa-sanskritg birthday cards to friends and family. I could say “hi” to strangers on the street. I could stop killing mosquitos. (True confession: I’ve improved at the first two. Mosquitos? I squash them.)

The idea of applying Ahimsa to how I treat myself didn’t enter into the equation until much later, after a conversation with one of my teachers. She gave me examples of how practicing Ahimsa can run broad and deep if you let it. Practicing Ahimsa can help us change habits we’ve built over time.

But – (there’s always a “but,” right?) to change a habit we need to recognize it. Self-examination – without judgment – is an important first step. When we tune into our words, thinking, and actions we’re better able to see how we’re treating ourselves. We can decide where we’d like to make different, more loving choices.

Here are some ways to start practicing Ahimsa toward ourselves, on and off the yoga mat:

Replace negative words with positive
“I am fat.” can become “My body is strong and capable just the way it is.”

Accept compliments
“Oh, no, I mean, it’s no big deal…” can become “Thanks! I appreciate that!”

Release self-judgment
“I just can’t get my Warrior 2 right.” can become “Yoga poses are a practice, not a road to perfection.”

Exercise self care
“I’m too busy to slow down.” can become “I’m tired. I’m going to take a nap. The laundry can wait.”

Ask for help
“Why do I have to do everything?” can become “Will you ______ for me?”

I can’t say this enough – yoga is a practice. This week, choose one of the five ideas listed above and notice what happens when you introduce Ahimsa into your life. Give yourself permission to try without judgment and self-criticism. Explore. Notice.

If you read more about the Namas and Niyamas*,  you will see how all paths can lead back to Ahimsa. It’s a beautiful guiding principle and I encourage you to introduce it into your life.

*There are many resources for learning about the Namas and Niyamas, but I especially like Deborah Adele’s book which gives real-life examples in easy-to-understand writing.


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