By: Leslie Tomlinson
“When you walk into this room, there are only kind, loving eyes.” – Robin Rubio
The walls around my heart cracked when I heard that phrase. The Yoga instructor proceeded to explain that no judgment of others would be practiced on the mat, that the room was a safe space. My immediate thought was, “Yeah, no problem.” Her next explanation brought my reality to a crashing halt, I was not to judge myself either. How in the world was I supposed to do that?!?!? I was practicing half naked in a room with mirrors covering 3 of 4 walls heated and humidified to a temperature I could only assume one would normally find in the belly of a volcano. Not to mention the decades of negative self talk I had going against me. How was I going to break that habit?!?!? This was when I knew Yoga was going to be my new way of life.
I think self- judgement is something to which all of us can relate. We all have those negative self talks. The ones that are usually themed with a “I’m not good enough…” or “He/She is so much better than me…” or “Why can’t I just be…” The funny thing about it is, that by judging ourselves we truly are judging those around us. By placing that value on ourselves, we are naturally placing value by which to compare. We are harming ourselves and harming others in the process. This is where the practice of Ahimsa (non-harming/ non-violence/ compassion) can truly be applied.
Ahimsa appears in the Upanishads and is listed as a Yama (universal morality) in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. It’s made such an impact on my life and my yoga practice that I have the Sanskrit tattooed on my forearm. Prior to my study of yoga on and off the mat, I’d had some truly negative self talk, even hate for myself at times. Practicing, meditating, and focusing on non-violence toward myself brought about one of the biggest turning points in my life. I found a new freedom. It was as if a 100 pounds had been lifted from my shoulders, it became easier to stand taller, shoulders back, heart open to the world.
This change in perspective allowed me to free my mind to focus on the world around me. I suddenly had time to get out of my own head and see the beauty that is the world around me. I began to truly appreciate human movement in all forms in a way that I hadn’t before. I began to realize that humans on and off the mat move in a way that reflects how they feel, and by tuning into others emotions I could find compassion. By turning my critical eye off, I realized that every last one of us has the capacity to be our best selves and our worst selves, the capacity to do harm or to show gratitude. In this, compassion is found. And compassion and gratitude are the tools we use to keep our minds judgment free, positive, and full of love.
So the next time your mind starts to race with negative talk or self doubt, flip your perspective. Remind yourself of Ahimsa, and find that one thing that will allow you to feel compassion or that one thing for which you feel grateful. Peace of mind is truly only one thought, one breathe, one Thank You away.