Reflections on the teachings of Patricia Walden, 2017

AHIMSA: non-violence

Despite her blonde bangs curling slightly over her eyelids, she looked at me with piercing eyes, but not the intensely perceptive and observing eyes I was used to with Iyengar teachers. These eyes felt like they looked straight through you to your soul with joyful disposition, encouraging and compassionate and accompanied with a genuine smile and nod of the head. “You have to imagine yourself gracefully going into the perfect version of this pose”. And then, in my mind, with a sunset background I saw a shadow version of myself arching back into kapotasana. Did time just stop for a second? Shoot, I trailed off, what did she just say? The entire room was looking in my direction and I blanked. With an amused smile, she patiently repeated herself, “are you ready?”

The usual strong feeling of aversion to the low back pain that always accompanied this pose (often causing me to clinch my throat) was not there. It was replaced with something else... trust in her? confidence in myself?... not sure but it was enough to help me go for it.

She reminded us of the sutra that discussed ahimsa, the first and most important of the yamas, the limb of yoga that teaches us how to productively interact with the rest of society. As with most sutras, until I had some personal experience to relate to it, it remained more distant and esoteric. In this teaching moment with PW, she communicated her knowledge of practicing ahimsa with when practicing a pose and I was able to experience directly what that meant in my own body, in kapotasana.

When in the presence of someone who faithfully practices ahimsa all hostility is abandoned. How powerful that vibhuti (power) is! You are able to transmit the power for people to abandon hostility with themselves, if even for just a moment.

After coming into the pose with no visual of what I really looked like, she pulled my thighs forward and up, working to loosen the tight quadriceps and groins to allow for more arch. Having no idea what was really going on I just trusted her (and myself) and allowed what was supposed to happen - happen! The normal tendency to grip no longer there, this allowed stiffness to morph into movement. As she walked away, I suddenly realized “I can’t get up!” The 50 lb weight on my calves was apparently doing its job. In an awkward sideways motion I came out. Graceful entry in my mind led to sloppy exit – but who cared! The experience had changed me.

All week she communicated this powerful notion of mixing the right amount of ahimsa (nonviolence) with tapas (determined effort). If we are humble and open to receiving - keeping the brain cool, calm, and with keen observation – the light and knowledge can be more easily transferred from teacher to student. When we begin to experience these fleeting moments of true understanding, peace, and quiet, it fuels the body, the mind, the soul to keep seeking. Because you just caught a glimpse of how much there really is to know.

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