By Stephanie Stillman
When I first learned of Yoga I thought it was only about physical poses and chanting an “Om” every so often. So it may be surprising that the Yoga practice I can’t live without has nothing to do with touching my toes or going upside down. It has everything to do with ahimsa, the practice of gentle kindness.
From an outsider’s perspective I may have seemed put together and confident, but my inside world was a different story. I was a terrible bully. I would beat myself up for making mistakes and became all too good at finding my flaws. I couldn’t hear a compliment if it was screamed in my ear because the negative self-talk was so much louder. Life felt really hard. I started practicing ahimsa during my 200-hour teacher training at Hale Pule. Since then, my whole life has changed and I would never go back.
Ahimsa is a daily practice for me. It means that when I make a mistake I get to learn and grow. It means that when I start to pick out my flaws or compare myself to others that I instead think something kind about myself and about that other person. It means that when I am upside down or touching my toes that I listen to my body and stay two steps away from my edge. It means that when I am greeted with anger, I respond with compassion. It’s a practice of loving myself exactly as I am, and loving those around me for exactly who they are. It’s a feeling of warmth and sweetness. Ahimsa is a practice of remembering that I am human, perfectly imperfect. It’s a practice that I can’t live without.