By Lisa Vohsemer CYA-RYT200
I started practicing yoga as a way to strengthen my body. The poses had me move in ways that I had not done since I was a child and I loved it — I frequently would spontaneously perform poses throughout the day just because of the sheer joy it brought me, regardless of how strange I might have looked to my work colleagues. I frequently espoused the many benefits of yoga — how it could improve your posture, your health, your life — to anyone who would listen. But as much as I tried to convince others to make the choice to turn to yoga to heal their own body pains, few listened, and even fewer joined me which frustrated me as I just wanted to help.
Then I participated in a workshop on shamanism. The leader introduced us to the concept of victim–villain–hero. He cautioned us that in a situation where we see someone in need, we may want to just rush in to claim the role of hero and end their suffering. Unfortunately, if that person does not seek help, and we impose ourselves upon them, we’ve forced them to be the victim and we become the villain, not the hero. This image has struck with me since that time and allows me to pause and observe whether my fellow companion will be an open and willing participant to new knowledge and change.
Through discovery of the eight limbs of yoga, the concept of ahimsa or “do no harm” has similarly impacted me. I take great responsibility to follow this on my personal path, and always emphasize this teaching during yoga classes. I believe it is critical for students to be aware and learn to practice it for themselves.
From the elderly gentleman who pushes himself too much, never takes the lower level poses that he should, causing himself pain and injury, to the person who frequently purchases items rather than spending time with their own thoughts, I have observed that many of us are continually pushing forward towards some uncertain and unattainable goal causing damage to the environment through our continued commercialism, damage to our bodies as they break down from stress, and damage to society as we isolate ourselves from one another, retreating into our houses and moving further online instead of connecting to each other as individuals in the present.
My practice of ahimsa involves not just my body, but the world around me. I try to ensure my lifestyle and menu choices are as environmentally sound as possible. I connect with the outdoors and with every person I meet in my daily activities. This personal activism surely translates to seeing, in a small part, that I create a better world. I am very cognisant that to become evangelical would just fall on deaf ears and may even push people away. Many may benefit from seeing quiet action in place rather than loud activism. Being present and mindful allows me to hear the quiet calls for help which ultimately allow for heroic acts to manifest.
Many things in the world we cannot control — but we can control our mind and our actions. Individuals becoming mindful, with each and every one practicing ahimsa, may be the best activism we can ask for.
© 2019 Lisa Vohsemer
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