Part I: Ahimsa – Love yo’ girls.
I’m firm in my belief that women should support other women without inhibition. That belief isn’t going away; however, it hasn’t always been so pronounced in my life. I, like many women, began my relationships with others as a critic. That’s a nice way of putting it… I was a bitch. I was a mean girl who had no interest in “kindness for kindness’ sake”. I suppose this was my first instinctual attempt at protecting myself, but that’s a self-discovery type conversation for another day. Going back in time, the moment (or rather, string of moments tied together with glittery ribbon) when I decided that women were meant to protect each other was directly related to my yoga practice.
I did the “yoga in Junior College as an elective, whatever” practice. I didn’t connect with that. I think it’s hard to have a self-gratifying moment of Zen among 50 other 19-year-olds who are in the same ‘killing time’ mindset as I was. About a year after I got sober, I started seeking out further ways to dig up the dirt that had been solidifying itself inside my soul for years. The gym I was going to religiously had Yoga and Pilates classes. I gave it another go. This began my obsession with Yoga and the first step to what would end up becoming my life’s purpose. Funny how that happens when you’re not really asking for it… but I digress. Moving through classes was great, I was feeling stretchy and restful and strong – that stuff’s a given. My curiosity overcame me, and I immediately did what any modern woman on a path to self-discovery does – I blew half my paycheck at Barnes & Noble and got to reading about 4 different books at the same time. Which brings me to why I’m here: I began understanding the importance of people supporting people, but more primarily women supporting women, through these texts. There is a reason Yogis are always hugging and saying “I love you” to each other.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a text roughly two thousand years old and is meant to be a guide for self-discovery that is studied over the course of a lifetime (or more). The first section of this guide that I found myself attaching to was The Yamas. The Yamas can be compared to The Ten Commandments, if that speaks more to your beliefs. They are a set of ethical practices that “transcend creed, country, age and time” as described in Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar. Basically the Yamas are “the rules” for living a conscientious life outwardly and inwardly. As this blog continues, I hope to dive deeper into the connection between Yoga’s spiritual and physical benefits, and how each one brings peace and closer connection to my Girl’s Girl heart.
The first of The Yamas is Ahimsa, and what a wonderful place to begin. Ahimsa translates almost directly to “not violent”, but it means so much more than that. Ahimsa is a place of love. It is the state of being that is fully expressed with love, compassion, and kindness for all people and living things. Described by Iyengar, “the yogi believes that every creature has as much of a right to live as he has”. Personally, this translates into the belief that every human has as much of a right to happiness as I have. With this belief, it makes no sense to be cruel or judgmental or plain, ol’ mean.
Historically, we girls have had it rough. For one reason or another, girls grow up believing that they have two choices: bully, or be bullied. Even with the legacy of strong-ass women some of us have backing us (thanks mom, you rule), the playing field is anything but even. Rather than living with a sense that every woman belongs, women so commonly believe that only others are entitled to what they want, not themselves. I believe that this stems from a conscious effort from some to alienate, disconnect, and invalidate others. As women who have our own personal sets of dreams, goals, and shit to do, this shift in consciousness must begin with each of us.
Now, as much as it would make my heart glow to see every woman attempt to explain the concept of Ahimsa to every person they meet, I believe there is an easier (and less wordy) way to do this: Love each other deeply. This concept is different for everyone. Some of us prefer to hold a Polaroid to our hearts and sigh endearingly. Some of us won’t let our friends leave the car until we’ve both said I love you (that’s me). While these are acceptable and awesome ways to love, let’s try something new. Let’s be loud. Let’s be fearless. Let’s shout it, write it, say it, text it, whatever works! Let’s love loudly to each other. I firmly believe that when the disbelievers and critics hear our love and see the smiles on our faces, it will become contagious. Consider this your formal invitation to give up any preconception that loving openly makes you weak or dumb. Give up all notions of fear or rejection. Love without walls in your loudest voice and know that your love is breaking a cycle. Your love is making an impact. Your love is changing the world around you. Walk with Ahimsa.
Until next time, keep the wind at your back and the sun on your face.
Chelsea Gray has lived in Ventura County her entire life, and has a deep passion for community and collective kindness. She has been a yoga instructor since January 2017 and teaches yoga in local parks, as well as with Ventura Pop Up Yoga. She believes that compassion for others is the key to finding peace in life. In her free time, she loves cooking vegan meals, going for long walks around Ventura, and staying mellow at home.
Namaste with Chelsea Gray