Yoga: Ahimsa (Non-Violence) – the art of support vs. help

two girls BWThis week I’ve been focusing on the the idea of support vs. help in my continuing study of the yama Ahimsa (non-violence).  In continuing to read Deborah Adele’s book, she says that “there is nothing to fix or save in another; there is only the gift of listening.”  When we interfere in others’ lives; ie – trying to “fix” their problems or help them– we might infer that we are better than they are, our experiences have more meaning, or we don’t trust this person to be able to find the answers for themselves.  We may do this because we mean well, but in doing this, we take away their ability to experience something that may help them grow and learn something about themselves and make them stronger for it. It’s a form of violence against our friend who needs us to just listen, rather than “fix” the situation.

Instead, we can offer support – bringing ourselves onto this level playing field with them versus offering help where we take away their power to grow from the experience.

I’ve been thinking about how I incorporate this idea into my yoga classes this week.  This idea, for me, incorporates the fact that we are all on our own path – in yoga, in our lives, and this path means that we have our own unique experiences along the way. But we learn from these experiences and this shapes us as a person.    And on our own path we can offer our support to our friends as they travel on their path and not try to be a fixer of problems.  In this way we honor each other and our individual journeys.  So I can offer my students my support on their yoga path, knowing that wherever they are on that journey is just perfect. I can offer support in their poses through careful instruction, purposeful alignment, and making sure they are safe.  In offering this support I give the student the power to experience the pose, to feel it in their body, and through this they begin to grow as a yogi, and maybe carry some of these ideas off the mat and put it into practice in their daily lives.

Getting the ego out of the way allows us to step away from this form of violence against our friend in need by trying to make everything better for them.  And who are we really trying to fix?  Our friend, or ourselves?  Often we are just covering for problems or issues in our own lives by trying to save someone else. So this week I look to myself and ask – Can I offer self-support to myself before offering it to others?  Can I be the best possible friend/teacher and support my friends/students on their own paths without trying to fix everything?  This form of non-violence might be the most challenging, but also very rewarding when we realize that we can all be there for each other, supporting and growing together.