New Year, New Habits


How can you bring your yoga practice into the New Year?

How can you set the intention of a regular mind-body practice while creating the habit of practice?

Practicing yoga is one way to enlist the wisdom of our minds AND bodies, to generate a lasting shift – if we stick with it. A lasting shift happens if we are able to create new patterns, consistent patterns of behavior we call habits.

James Clear has written a book about habits titled Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, a New York Times bestseller. In it, Clear lists four intervention points for habit management.

In order to encourage a good new habit, the intervention points are:

  • To make it Obvious (visible)
  • To make it Attractive (enticing)
  • To make it Easy (convenient)
  • To make it Satisfying (rewarding)

We might not be able to use all the strategies in developing a good new habit, but we can focus on the interventions that are most effective. I am intrigued, wondering how this meshes with one of the joys I find in yoga, that is, yoga is an enjoyable way to challenge our patterns of movement and patterns of mind.

How can we get into the habit of yoga for the New Year?
Here are 4 ways to bring your Yoga Practice into the New Year! 

  1. Obvious Strategy: To enlist the obvious strategy, Clear makes the case for clarity in our intention. Intention is familiar to yoga practitioners. Clear states that people often don’t have so much trouble with ‘willpower’ as with clarity. In order to envision yourself following through, fill in the sentence: I will __(activity)__ on __(day)__ at __(time)__ in __(place)__. Now your imagination can see you actually doing it!
  2. Attractive Strategy: Make a date. Is there a friend who you would like to see more often, and/or one who you know shares your interest? By using a commitment device, you can make your clear intention more attractive in two ways. One, you enjoy the activity and enjoy the person’s company. Two, it is very unattractive to be perceived as the person who backs out.
  3. Easy Strategy – There’s a word for that in Sanskrit, sukham: comfortable, happy, easiness. It is used in Sutra 2.46, Sthira sukhamansanam: stable and easiness in posture and presence. There is a connection between being stable and being comfortable. By finding your steadiness you grow your comfort; by creating ease you grow more stable. We can make things easier for ourselves as we start to cultivate a habit by building the habit with a series of small steps, instead of making a giant leap. The first thing to do is show up. Step one: every day take out the yoga mat with the rule that you’re doing yoga for just five minutes. Grow steady in how you show up, and your practice can expand from there.
  4. Rewarding Strategy: I appreciated that Clear makes a distinction between types of rewards. He points out that bad habits tend to reward us in the short term (donuts taste so GOOD), and good habits (like avoiding donuts) tend to be more rewarding in the long run. Consistent yoga practice provides many long term rewards, but it can be difficult to recognize them because they develop very gradually. In the practice of yoga, we also take the time to notice the rewards in the now. In this moment, we sense gratitude for our breath, for our abilities and the connection between body and mind.

The beauty of developing a yoga habit is that the practice itself develops our ability to pay attention and expands our awareness. By giving ourselves a structured way to pay attention below the neck, we enroll the mind AND body in remembering our intentions.

Written by: Mary Kluz, MS & RYT-200. Mary Kluz is works in organizational health and leadership and is Associate Professor Emerita with the University of Wisconsin- Madison, Division of Extension. Mary is a Registered Yoga Teacher at the 200 hour level with Yoga Alliance and is a certified 200 hour Viniyoga Wellness Instructor through the American Viniyoga Institute/River Flow Yoga Teacher Training School. She teaches weekly yoga classes at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness where she focuses on stress reduction and centering.

Gratitude

“I rarely laughed at my husband’s jokes.”

Recently I spoke at the Alzheimer’s Association Conference to support caregivers. After a short yoga practice of breath guided movements, the caregivers participated in a meditation that invited them to pause in gratitude for themselves, the choice they made to attend the conference and for the sacred work they do to care for their loved one, friend, family member.

An attendee caught my attention when leaving the stage and quietly leaned in to share her thoughts with me.

“I realized something during my meditation. I’m the primary caregiver for my husband who has Alzheimer’s. Before his diagnosis he always told jokes and I rarely laughed at them. Now when my husband tells a joke and laughs, I am more engaged. I am grateful for his laughter. We laugh together.”

Gratitude has a sneaky way of creating a substantial shift in our awareness. In many ways it asks us to ‘come to attention’ and be mindful, even if for a short pause.

Gratitude can encompass a grand gesture or a sincere, simple act. When acknowledged internally or externally with our full engagement, gratitude has a potent power that shifts a moment, an emotion, a person, a perspective and even more.

Can we really benefit from offering ourselves and others gratitude? Research continues to remind us – yes!

You’ve Got This – A short pause each day acknowledging what you have instead of focusing on what you don’t have, can shift emotions of sadness, anger and resentment to happiness, hope and appreciation.

Nice to Know You– Research states, saying ‘Thank You’ and acknowledging others contributions can lead to new opportunities and support healthy relationships.

It’s all connected -Body, Mind, Heart – In addition to relationships, studies show that an attitude of gratitude can motivate you to take care of yourself – to be active, to eat food that fuels your body and mind, which in turn can support your rest and sleep.

How do you fit the practice of gratitude into a busy life? Keep it simple. Pause, breathe, observe, give thanks, repeat.

Consider these short practices to sharpen your Attention and Intention. May your gratitude support the everyday grit and grace, fatigue and stamina, tears and joy, grand moments and quiet gestures.

Internal Gratitude:

Pause and Breathe Gratitude
• Place one hand near your heart and your other hand near your navel.
• Take 4-8 breaths observing the pace of your breath and the subtle movement of your body as you breathe.
• Focus your attention on your breath and body, letting your mind help you choose what you are grateful for at this moment.
• Describe what you are grateful for in a word or phrase. Take 4-8 more breaths to inhale and exhale your word or phrase of gratitude.

Gratitude Table at Your Heart Space
• Choose to take at least 5-minutes for this short meditation.
• Sit comfortably, close your eyes, breathe and notice the flow of your breath at the tip of your nose.
• Place your hand at the center of your upper body – heart space.
• Place your attention at your heart space.
• As you breathe connect to a mental image of light and place it at your heart space.
• As you inhale let this light expand.
• As you exhale rest your attention in this light.
• Give yourself time to create a mental image of a gratitude table placed in your light at the heart space.
• Let your personality shine through as you notice the details of this gratitude table that is meaningful to you.
• Mindfully observe what and who you are grateful for within your life and place it on the gratitude table.
• Take time to connect to what is a challenge for you at this time and place it on the gratitude table.
• Mindfully observe what you are grateful for about yourself and place it on the gratitude table.
• Illuminate all that is placed on your gratitude table as you inhale and exhale, breathing gratitude for what you have been graced with, for what is challenging at this time and for yourself.
• Take 4-8 more breaths inhaling and exhaling gratitude.

External Gratitude:

Connect with Someone
• Pause and decide who you’d like to connect with today.
• Sit down and create an email or choose a card to send – telling someone that you are thankful for them.
• Better yet, when you see someone who you are grateful for today, stop and look them in the eye and tell them, “I wanted you to know I am thankful for you.”

A Tangible Table
• Choose a table, a window sill, a shelf in your home.
• Take time to place a few (or many) objects that are meaningful to you on this space.
• Notice each object you choose, mindfully reflecting upon what the object symbolizes for you, individuals connected to this object, how it represents the richness of your life journey.
• Let this be a ‘table’ of gratitude that reminds you to pause, breathe, reflect and offer gratitude for your experiences, challenges, teachers, all that continues to guide you.
• Roll out your mat near this table and let it be a foundation for you as you practice your asana, pranayama, meditation.
• Sit near your gratitude table with a cup of tea, book, journal; or simple pause quietly and reconnect to your breath.

As we enter this season of reflection and thanksgiving, the Teachers and Therapists at 5 Koshas welcome you to:
• Explore and practice within the classes at 5 Koshas. May these support you in your intention and gratitude.
• Ask us for guidance with choosing a special gift for a favorite person or for yourself – a gift card, a book, a yoga mat, a DVD.
• Write your gratitude on a star and place it on a tree of light near the entry of 5 Koshas.

May your experiences this season be a balance of grand and quiet, internal and external; and may the collective energy of all our gracious actions support our intentions for ourselves, our loved ones and the communities we are connected to.

On behalf of the teachers and therapists at 5 Koshas, gratitude for each of you.

Yoga for Fatigue as the Season Changes

Summer has said it’s last goodbye for the year.  The crispness and color of fall is upon us. With the season change comes the very real problem of fatigue for many who live in northern climes.  It’s one of the more overwhelming symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and a troubling symptom for many as the hours of daylight fade.

Fatigue can have different qualities.  It may feel physical (more muscular) or physiological (shortness of breath, no “mo-jo”, lethary) or cognitive (presenting as difficulty concentrating and processing information).  It can be mild at one end of the spectrum or bone-numbing and paralyzing at the other extreme.   A dandelion scattering its seeds is symbolic for the scattering of energy that comes with fatigue.

The ancient yogis devised models for understanding human energy and how to transform it.  We can use these ancient models for the fatigue that comes with the season, health conditions, treatments, grief, or other factors that cause fatigue.

Breath-centered postures, breathing practices and relaxation/meditative practices have the greatest potential to help us transform fatigue.  We can choose postures that build energy, adapt the breath in postures to awaken and nourish, or use breathing practices that feel awakening when we are tired or calm us when stress is depleting our energy reserves.  We can also use yoga to become more sensitive to when we need more energy-conserving practice like relaxation or meditation.

Here are 5 ways to get started with yoga practice tools to transform fatigue:

  1. Awareness – track your fatigue level, stress level, work hours, leisure activities and lifestyle habits such as exercise and diet for 1 week to see if you notice any trends
  2. Asana – do a short practice of 1 – 3 postures to get going in the morning.  Lengthen your breath over 4 – 6 repetitions of the posture.  Standing postures are the most energizing but if your energy is really low, you may need to do something on your back or in a kneeling position.
  3. Breathe – when energy is low but you need to be present or productive, do 12 full deep breaths with Inhale = Exhale and a short 3 sec pause after Inhale.  An example is:  Inhale 6 sec, Pause for 3 sec after Inhale, Exhale 6 sec.
  4. Meditate – spend about 5 minutes visualizing light moving to every part of your body, especially the heart space, center of the head and hands and feet.
  5. Breath-infused Relaxation or Nap – systematically work through the body, sending a deep breath to each major part of the body (R arm, R leg, L leg, L arm, center of the head, center of the chest, belly, abdomen).  Do 1st round with 1 breath, 2nd round with 2 breaths, 3rd round with 3 breaths.  Continue until your body feels suspended in a deep state of relaxation and rejuvenation.  Spend 5 – 10 minutes in this rejuvenation.

Fatigue is often transformed more by a variety of short practice tools that are “do-able” and not too energy-consuming than a monster practice. As your reserve of energy improves, you may be able to exercise more or add stronger yoga practices or begin to work with breathing practices that build your energy reserves.  A yoga teacher or Yoga Therapist trained in the Vedic models of human energy can help you out.

It’s important to work with your health care provider if symptoms of fatigue feel overwhelming or are new without any discernible reason.  If you have trouble functioning at work, home or in your volunteer work, your personal relationships suffer, and you have significant feelings of depression as a result of the fatigue, it’s time to talk with your doctor.

As you move toward the winter solstice, use your yoga practice to support and nourish steady energy and to transform fatigue when it presents itself.

Transition and Transformation

Change in our life comes in many different ways.  Sometimes we plan for the change.  A retirement, career change or getting married are examples of things that we often consciously choose.  And then some changes blow in like a strong wind taking with it any sense of order and stability.

There are many teachings in the ancient tradition of yoga for transforming through life’s inevitable changes.   Some of the most profound and useful teachings on change come from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  The teachings most helpful center on our relationship to attachment and aversion, understanding what causes suffering, how to free ourselves from suffering and staying centered in regular practice that is suitable for us as individuals.

Radical and deeply shocking changes may require the simplest yoga tools possible.  It may be a very basic but comforting posture infused with a long exhale.  It may be simply trying to extend your exhale to try to fall asleep.  It may be extending the breath in the morning as you first wake up to try to get more clear-headed to face the day.

Whether changes is radical or planned, yoga can be profoundly useful in helping us build our prana shakti or vitality so that we are strong and stable in body, physiology (especially our immune system) and mind.  We build prana shakti through postures and breath practice (pranayama).  We can then use our vitality to work with the more difficult aspects of change including thoughts, feelings, attitudes and behaviors that create suffering around the inevitable changes that life brings our way.

When unexpected visitors come to your door, welcome all knowing that you have the tools to be present, open and grounded.

Profiles in Resilience: This is What Resilience Looks Like

by Julie Bonasso Krolczyk

“What will you do today to keep loving, to keep moving, to keep growing?”

I was deeply moved by my amazing sister-in-law who perfected her first paddle board headstand last weekend at our home.

But what REALLY inspires me about Katie is how her physical strength is representative of her inner strength. Not so long ago she lost her husband to pancreatic cancer and suddenly found herself a single mom to 4 children.

How did Katie choose to handle this massive curve-ball? By leading with her heart in the following ways:

She takes her children on remarkable camping vacations to beautiful places and spaces.
She creates incredible memories in the mundane and in the special.
She writes daily.
She hikes the Appalachian trail.
She cries.
She gets angry.
She embraces life.
She asks for and accepts help.
She honors imperfection.
She loves.
She builds bonfires for friends and family.
She does headstands.

Katie is an incredible example of how we can be resilient in a time of tragedy; how we can find joy in the face of sadness; and how to keep moving even when the weight of grief weighs us down.

The cool thing about resilience is that it isn’t a one-size fits all concept. Headstands may not be your jam, but perhaps swinging on a hammock enjoying the breeze is? Or reading a book? Or preparing a meal? Or snuggling with kids? Or serving at a soup kitchen? Or picking fresh herbs? Or calling your mom?

Or ….? Or ….? Or ….?

We can CHOOSE to create our own mini miracles every day to deal with life’s curve-balls.

What will you do today to keep loving, to keep moving, to keep growing?

 

Julie Bonasso Krolczyk is a health and wellness coach with 15+ years of experience coaching professionals in lifestyle behavior change: Stress Management, Nutrition, Exercise, Relationships and Career.  She sees clients at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness in Wausau, WI. If you would like to share your story about resilience and inspire others, contact Julie at julie@revealyourpower.com to be featured on the 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness blog.

Novice Yoga Anxiety

by Janie Martin

“If you wish you were more flexible or more relaxed, give yoga a try. If you are nervous about going to a class, go with a friend. If people with serious diseases can participate and enjoy it, so can you.”

Joining a Yoga Class

One of the things on my long list of desired post-retirement activities was to join a yoga class. Several people had recommended this to me; and I heard and read good things about yoga for both building flexibility and improving balance. Those abilities deteriorate as we age, so the potential benefits were obvious. All the same it took a bit of guts to go to the first class.

Joining an activity where most people have been participating as a group for a while is a little intimidating. There is the factor of feeling out of place, fear of not being able to learn or keep up, or becoming a laughingstock.

But all it took was one class for me to feel at home and know that I was going to both benefit from and enjoy participating. The group was welcoming and warm, and the instructor immediately put me at ease. I went from hiding in the furthest corner of the room to being comfortable in the first row within two weeks.

Find A Type of Yoga You Enjoy and a Teacher Who Can Adapt for Your Needs

There are several different types of yoga, so you might need to experiment a little to find what is best for you. There are even “chair yoga” classes for those who have balance problems or difficulty with kneeling postures.

When I moved to Wisconsin I hated to leave my old class and instructor, but luckily I immediately found a class with an equally good instructor. And the diverse people in my new class have become friends like my old classmates were.

We all have two things in common; we were able to summon the courage to try class for the first time; and we all find the activity beneficial. Other than that we are all different – some in great shape, some a bit rust-bound and some who have not done any physical activity their entire lives. Some wear old sweat pants and loose t-shirts; some have slick exercise clothing. We all fit in, and we all encourage each other.

Some class members have some physical limitations, but the instructor is good at modifying the activities so they can fully participate. Some have what the instructor cheerfully calls “cranky” knees or a shoulder that doesn’t want to cooperate – but she continually urges us to stay in the zone of halfway between easy and hard effort – a perfect way to avoid injury but still benefit from movement. I always leave feeling better than when I walked in.

Classes with Camaraderie, Not Competition

Now that my husband is retired, he too goes to a class – one targeted for men with a male instructor. Using our bodies in class, the focus is on celebrating what we CAN do, not on what our bodies won’t let us do. There is no scorekeeping, no competition, and no comparisons. Chatter before class is about gardening, families, and hobbies. There is a lot of laughing, and those who miss class are warmly welcomed back after vacation or surgeries.

You Can Do It

So here are my thoughts for you if you have ever considered yoga. If you wish you were more flexible or more relaxed, give yoga a try. If you are nervous about going to a class, go with a friend. If people with serious diseases can participate and enjoy it, so can you.  If a class member who told me she is seriously in a battle for her life can give it a try for the first time, so can you.

Namaste!

Janie Martin is retired and a student at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness.  She tends her horses and cats and writes in western Marathon County.  

Staying Connected to Your True Self Through Practice & Detachment

By Karey Krampota, RYT-200, Certified Viniyoga Wellness Instructor

“In Yoga Sutra I.12, Patanjali explains that to achieve a state of yoga, or focused concentration, one must utilize both practice (Abhyasa) and detachment (Vairagyam). Practice and detachment are two of the very first tools Patanjali offers to help in this process of refining the mind toward clearer perception and a deeper connection with your true self.”

For a while now, my thinking pattern was directed by and committed to attachment and with-holding from regular practice. I was attached to my thoughts, feelings, body, mind, relationships, experiences, and surroundings. If you can relate to this pattern, then you may also experience what I did. My thinking pattern was interfering with my practice, my mood, and my ability to be fully aware. Holding on to my thought pattern of attachment and inconsistent practice caused me to be distracted, disconnected, unfulfilled, and untrue to my self.

Practice and detachment work together. Without one, the other does not progress. To break my thinking pattern, I recommitted to practice and to my goal of a more focused, present, and peaceful state of being. My practice is a combination of asanas, breath practice, and chanting.

By combining these, I’m able to quiet my mind and focus my attention, taking me closer to my goals. I also have started to implement the discipline of letting go of the thought patterns and habits that are standing in my way.

How can you begin to learn and experience the benefits of practice and detachment? Here are a few tips I’ve found helpful.

1. Identify attachments. Can you identify attachments that are affecting your mood or ability to be fully aware? This is a good starting point for knowing where to focus when you commit or recommit to your practice.

2. Shift your thinking patterns. This takes time but being aware of your patterns is a good step. Shifting my thinking pattern to practice and detachment has taught me to do things to the best of my ability and to not be attached to the end results of my actions.

3. Move on from holding on. Whenever I have negative thoughts or feelings, I move on instead of holding on to them and allowing them to take hold of my current state of being.

4. Focus on the bigger goal. If something doesn’t go as I anticipate, I continue to move toward my goal without the results altering my true self.

5. Breath. My breath is my connection to my internal quiet space and my external being. It is my source to the stillness and peace within my mind. While breathing with this Sutra 1.12 in mind, I focus on what supports me and let go of what doesn’t. As I inhale, I bring my awareness to anything within that serves my goal, such as patience, strength, courage, clarity, and wisdom. As I exhale, I let go of what no longer serves me or my goal, such as doubt, anxiety, distraction or negative thinking. I try to concentrate on the process and journey of my goal, releasing obstacles or anything else that is no longer serving my soul or goal. After I have completed a good amount of breaths, I begin to return my awareness to my body and my surroundings. Reminding myself that through regular conscious breath practice, my true self is always there, unaltered and unchanged.

Incorporating Sutra 1.12 into my life has reconnected me to my deepest layer, where I can be present, focused and intuitive with my true being. This has been my goal for a long time, slowly keeping this Sutra to heart in order to make steady progress. To remain unaltered and unchanged by my current experience and remain true to who I am.

Source for Opening Quote: https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/decoding-yoga-sutra-1-12-embrace-the-value-of-practice-and-non-attachment 

Karey Krampota, RYT-200, is a recent graduate of the River Flow Yoga Teacher Training School at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness.  She teaches Toddler Yoga, a chair yoga class and subs for various classes at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness.  She also works on customer relations, marketing and promotion.  

Tips For When Life Slows You Down

By: Julie Bonasso Krolczyk

“The Power of the Pause” – Shannon Sommerling

Are you dealing with physical or emotional pain and have had to slow down? Are you tired of being frustrated? Not sure how to move forward?

I recently was sidelined from physical activity for 3 months due to a back injury.

Here’s what I learned – just as in a yoga pose, there is strength in stillness, resilience through releasing (what doesn’t serve) and wisdom 
from wonderment.

TIPS FOR WHEN LIFE SLOWS YOU DOWN:

1) Change the Narrative – Our thoughts create our actions create our life. When we have self-limiting beliefs, we engage in self-limiting behaviors. When we change our inner critic to self-love, and change our limiting beliefs to the power of possibility, we start to act differently and feel better. Catch your inner-critic and ask: Would you say those same words to a child? If not, change the story you are telling yourself.

2) Practice Gratitude – When we are grateful, we are not resentful about the things we have lost nor are we worried about the future. Every day, write down 10 (TEN!) things you are grateful for during the day.

3) Look Within – What needs to be released in your life? Is your pain associated with something you are holding on to that is no longer serving you? What is God/Universe saying to you? “Slow down and listen.” Be honest with yourself. What is the downtime trying to teach you?

4) Find New Ways of Coping – All of my normal strategies (yoga, spinning and hiking) were not available to me. I thought – what do I do now? Find new ways to de-stress: Meditation, Prayer, Deep Breathing [INSERT YOURS HERE!]

5) Seek Support – Isolating yourself can give you a short burst of temporary respite, but in the long run, you need the encouragement of others to keep moving forward. Reach our to your tribe – your partner, your friend, your community. They love you and want to see you thriving.

Julie Bonasso Krolczyk, is a Certified Health and Wellness coach with 15 years of experience coaching individuals on lifestyle behavior change:
Stress Management, Nutrition, Exercise, Relationships and Career.  

You can see her for individual health and wellness coaching at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness.

Learn more about Julie and her services at: http://www.5koshasyoga.com/wellness/health-wellness-coaching/.

Yoga for Cancer Treatment and Recovery

The ancient tools of yoga can help you feel your best through cancer treatment and assist in helping you reclaim your life after cancer.  Yoga can help with side effects from medically essential and life-giving treatments.  Yoga can be adapted to provide relief for nausea, fatigue, constipation, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, “chemo brain”, and neuropathy.  Feeling more like yourself after treatments is often a side benefit of developing a personal yoga practice.

Yoga for YOU

Yoga therapy uses therapeutic application of the tools of yoga to help you address issues that are especially problematic during treatment and post-treatment.  Based on your interest and need, simple practices are developed to help you address specific issues.  Yoga practice might include yoga postures, breathing practices, guided relaxation, sound, meditation or other practices.  There is no “one-size-fits-all” yoga approach when it comes to the type of cancer, the treatment side effects or the recovery.  Let’s address a few common concerns.

Nausea

Nausea is a common side effect of chemotherapy treatment.  A therapeutic yoga practice might be very simple in the days following a treatment.  Prop your head and chest up with pillows or cushions in bed or on the couch.  Breathe in and out through the mouth, focusing on a long exhale.  On the inhale, direct your attention into the navel area.  On exhale, focus on directing your attention down through the pelvis, legs, feet and toes.  You might even try a quiet sound on the exhale such as “haaa”.  Some patients benefit from a curled tongue inhale and a long sighing exhale.

Anxiety Tool: The Calming Breath

Breathing techniques are especially helpful for many treatment symptoms.  Anxiety around the diagnosis or treatments is very common.  Here is a simple breathing technique to try to create some calm when thoughts and emotions are taking away your calm.

Sit upright in a chair or rest back on the couch or in bed.  Inhale with ease, pause for 2 – 3 seconds and exhale smoothly. Do this for 6 breaths.  Continue the same pattern and make your exhale 2 – 3 seconds longer than your inhale.  Do this for 12 breaths.  Then gradually allow your breath to settle back to normal.

Care and Tending of the Immune System

One of the most important self-care strategies for cancer treatment and recovery is caring for your immune system.  A tailored yoga practice does this by reducing stress, improving sleep and promoting better digestion.  Yoga, along with nutritious food, adequate sleep, regular exercise, social support and other therapies, promotes the optimal functioning of your immune system during and after treatment.

A Yoga Therapist or yoga teacher who specializes in cancer care can help you through different phases of treatment and recovery that may present different symptoms that keep you from feeling your best.  Seek out specialized help to feel your best and integrate all that’s happened to you.

Ahimsa (Non-Violence) and Communication

Feeling connected to other people is a fundamental human need. Research for decades has shown that babies will fail to thrive if emotional connection is missing, despite having all physical needs met. Susan Pinker has a TED talk titled The Secret to Living Longer Might be Your Social Life, which describes how social ties extend life spans in blue zones, areas in the world where a notable percentage of people live past the age of 100.

How can we cultivate more and deeper human connections? The yoga sutras have something to say. Chapter 2 of the Yoga Sutras takes us to the deeper practice: control of thought forms and study of the mind, Raja Yoga. In this chapter, the eight limbs of yoga are introduced.

2.29  yama-niyama-āsana-prāṇāyāma-pratyāhāra-dhāraṇā-dhyāna-samādhayaḥ-aṅgāni

The eight limbs of Yoga are social ethics, personal observances, physical discipline, expansion of prāṇa through mastery of the breath, focusing attention away from external objects, choosing what to focus on, maintaining the focus, and assimilation of the object of focus. 

Physical practice is noted (asana); it is only one of the eight limbs of yoga, though it gets the most attention in our culture. The first limb, yama, provides guidelines for dealings with others and the second (niyama) in the list instructs us on developing ourselves. I’d like to focus on the first limb, yama, the teachings for social ethics:

2.30  ahiṁsā-satya-asteya-brahmacarya-aparigrahāḥ-yamāḥ

The social ethics are non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, moderation to serve the pursuit of the Absolute, and absence of greed. 

In my life I’ve noticed, if I’m focused on non-violence (ahimsa), the other social ethics are more accessible to me.

But what does that look like, ahimsa, non-violence? Is there a way I can actively cultivate something that is non-action?  Frustration!  We are creatures built for action! At the surface level, non-violence is abstaining from action. I won’t hit, bruise or kill another being. This is at the level of the physical where I can easily recognize this sort of violence. It leaves a mark.

We are also familiar with the violence of some words, when we hurl insults like rocks with the intention to hurt at the level of feeling. So much more clever than the primitive use of sticks and bullets. Certainly I am practicing ahimsa if I keep it to myself when I’d like to take a verbal jab.

It can be harder to recognize the violence in the thinking that precedes the judgment, and the harm that does to the relationship and to me, as these thoughts live in my head.

Judgment is so acceptable in our language. Sometimes we disguise this as the language of improvement. If I don’t tell him (or myself) what is wrong with him (or me), how will anyone be motivated to change?

Much judgment is built right into our language. The verb “to be” is rarely used alone and quite frequently followed by a judgment. “She is so insensitive” is used as commonly and casually as “she is tall,” as if we could see inside another person. And when I tell myself the story that I know how you are, it justifies my retaliatory reaction.  Dr. Brene’ Brown writes, “Dehumanizing always starts with language.”

I’m interested in communicating more mindfully, at the least, questioning my first reaction. How can I move from my judgment to a space where I have the chance to connect more deeply with another human being? Slowing down, I can check what I have perceived, watch my thoughts and choose my response. Each step provides an opportunity to practice ahimsa.  These active choices allow me to abstain from violence, and possibly, cultivate deeper human connection instead.

Mary Kluz, RYT-200, has been actively teaching yoga since 2015 and is part of the faculty for the 240 hour River Flow Yoga Teacher Training. She is an Associate Professor Emerita, University of Wisconsin-Extension. Mary is offering workshops on Mindful Communication, September 15, 2018 – 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM and September 27, 2018 – 12:30 to 4:30 PM. Her yoga classes on Thursdays (5:30 pm) and Fridays (5:00 pm) are focused on stress relief and centering.