Ahimsa and Utkatasana
By Jennifer Kelleher
Welcome, February! Each month at Ocean Bliss Yoga Studio, we have two studio focuses to help bring greater awareness to different areas of our life. One is typically a moral value from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and the other, a specific yoga asana (pose), or a category of asanas (for example, hip openers, forward folds, twists, etc.). This month, at Ocean Bliss we are focusing on ‘Ahimsa’ and ‘Utkatasana.’
Ahimsa is the very first moral value of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and it translates from Sanskrit to mean non-violence. This very foundational pillar of yoga involves being kind, compassionate, and loving to yourself, as well as other people, animals, plants, and objects. It means walking with a loving step and making kindness and love the backbone of all thoughts, intentions, and actions. Non-violent thoughts release dopamine (a ‘feel-good’ chemical) throughout the body, strengthen the immune system, and expedite healing from illness and injury. Scientific studies show that practicing Ahimsa not only increases your own happiness, it also increases your friends’ happiness by 25% and acquaintances’ happiness by 6%.
Our second focus of February is Utkatasana, commonly known as chair pose or fierce seat. Utkatasana is an intense pose that requires stamina, power, and engagement. Staying in the asana awakens our inner fire and can sometimes bring up feelings of discomfort. It is an exercise of determination, dedication, and endurance that requires a calm attitude, mental focus, and breath control. Utkatasana is a standing balance pose that strengthens the ankles, legs, core, and back, while stretching open the chest and shoulders. It improves strength, balance, and flexibility, while benefiting cardiovascular health, mood, and overall wellbeing.
Performed correctly, this pose seats you in your center helping you to feel grounded, embodied, and stabilized. Proper alignment in this pose creates an open channel for the high vibrational energy that you are to flow through, giving you greater vitality and vibrance.
Whether you come to yoga or not, I invite you to pay close attention to what goes on in your mind on a daily basis. How is your self-talk? What happens in your mind when you are triggered by something external? How can you maintain ahimsa (non-violence) even when things get fiery, fierce, or uncomfortable? How can you be kind and compassionate, even when provoked or triggered?
Part of our practice this month, both in and outside the studio, is working on our response by learning to stay calm, peaceful, and kind, even when our mind judges something as uncomfortable. In the moment of alarm, can we drop down into the body as loving presence? Can we notice the resistance, gripping, and negative thoughts as they arise and play with switching our focus and finding kindness, compassion, and ease instead?
Awareness is the first step. Next, I invite you to try softening your expression, gathering your attention on the breath in the body, and loving into yourself with heartfelt affirmations. Practice this and notice how your experience changes.
We invite all levels into the studio this month for daily classes (virtual options available) and monthly specialty workshops. This Sunday, February 5, Christina Cruz and Marie Battaglia are hosting a Foam Rolling and Essential Oils workshop at 4 p.m. Sign up and explore more offerings at oceanblissyoga.net.