The Yoga Brat: Practicing Our Ahimsa.

Via on Oct 13, 2013

Photo by The Glowing North Stars

Ahimsa was something I thought I understood for a long time.

It turns out I didn’t understand it at all. Maybe I still don’t, but I feel like I have a much firmer handle on the situation now.

It kind of always read like one of the 10 commandments for me: yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it, non-violence, whatever, let’s please move into crow pose or revolved half moon and let me cram my body into shapes it probably isn’t ready for. 

I kind of had this brush-off attitude with it.

Maybe because I felt like it wasn’t that important.

Now, we all know the yoga brats: hyper-judgmental of other peoples’ practices, overly-critical of teachers and studio ambiance, and general show-offs.

I was never a yoga brat…outwardly. As in, I would never let on to other people that internally, a yoga brat is exactly what I was: competitive, judgmental, distracted, anxious, forceful.

Not all the time, mind you. The most glorious and divinely orchestrated moments have happened on my yoga mat, and the amount of internal peace that arises from my practice (on the mat and off) is above and beyond what I ever anticipated.

I never felt like ahimsa was besides the point, but I just didn’t understand it on a heart-level. It was something my mind recognized but my heart did not.

And that’s okay. We aren’t ready for change until we are ready for change.

But I’m starting to understand ahimsa on a completely new level.

I’m first starting to understand it as it pertains to myself, which essentially means being able to recognize thoughts and feelings that I have about myself that cause me suffering. And I think this is important because I believe that if I am suffering, I sprinkle that suffering into absolutely every single interaction that I have, and I don’t want that for you or for me. That blows.

I’m also starting to understand it as it pertains to other people. By that I mean, letting other people be exactly who they are in this moment and separating myself from my opinion (which is usually that those other people are not as good as I am, or maybe they are too good for me so I want to cut them down with a metaphorical machete and glue their body parts to my walls to look at with a cackle every time I walk by).

This means that when I run into people who I perceive to be yoga brats—and I think to myself, “these people are know-it-alls, they are closed-minded and superficial and totally missing the point”—not only do I have to shift my next thought to, “and if those people are really like that, it’s all good by me,” by I have to tack on the additional thought of, “this is only my perception of them and I can choose to look at them in a different way that does not create inner conflict.”

But I don’t just run into yoga brats at the studio. I run into yoga brats at the grocery store, at coffee shops, at bars, and most recently, online—specifically in the elephant journal community.

Now I’m not saying that anything that anyone is doing is wrong—I take full responsibility for my thoughts and my feelings, and my thoughts and my feelings have absolutely nothing to do with other people (even though I think they do sometimes).

I’ve been writing enough that it was only a matter of time before the deluge of negative feedback came pouring in. I’m not saying that I’m bombarded with people disagreeing with me on the internet, but it happens regularly enough and with almost consistent animosity (which of course is just how I’m interpreting it).

And I have to wonder: why are people being mean? 

I’m only expressing my thoughts and my feelings about myself and my surroundings. I only write to promote love and acceptance and provoke movement towards peace for you and for me and for the entire freaking universe.

Sometimes when I receive feedback for my work, I wonder how and why people take what I say personally and become offended and feel it necessary to tell me I shouldn’t think or feel the way I think or feel. Because from my perspective, I’m only growing into a space of love, and that is why I write.

So this is not to say that I think the mean comments should stop. I don’t think the yoga brats should go away or revisit their behavior (unless they want to), because I don’t think any of that is my business.

My only business is to traverse back to the place of ahimsa, which for me means: moving from the space of internal conflict to the space of internal peace.

Yoga is the tool-kit. And every comment I perceive to be bratty, whether it’s at a studio or online, is simply another opportunity for me to look at my tendency to meet brattiness with brattiness.

I don’t want to be a brat because it doesn’t feel good to me—it feels like I’m bumping knuckles with other knuckles and the only thing that could possibly happen from that scenario is a bunch of blood and broken fingers.

So to you I say, please feel free of my judgment. Even if I think I have an opinion on how you should be living your life differently, that’s my own shit.

Be whoever you want to be, and if I take issue with it, it has absolutely nothing to do with you.

This is my ahimsa, and I’ll get there.

Like elephant spirituality on Facebook.

Ed: Sara Crolick

{photo: via The Glowing North Stars}

About Brentan Schellenbach

Brentan Schellenbach is a Chicago based yoga teacher and writer. She co-owns Fermata Yoga Center (FYC), a yoga studio based in the center of Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. Through her work with writing, yoga and meditation, she is looking to promote the good-feeling of herself and the good-feeling of others. For writings and personal information, visit: BrentanSchellenbach.com For FYC, visit: FermataYoga.com

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3 Responses to “The Yoga Brat: Practicing Our Ahimsa.”

  1. DaveTelf says:

    brilliant. on-point. bravo.

  2. Jim says:

    Fantastic article! Love the transparency with which you share! I struggle with a lot of the same judgement. You have shown me some ways to look at it, own it and clear of it. You made an impact today-thank you and Namaste.

  3. Richard says:

    Love this perspective…thanks so much. A wise teacher once said to me all you need to know about the yamas and the nyamas are in the first and last…non-harming and devotion to a higher power…Ahimsa has been at the center of my practice for a long time and will probably need to be there for the duration. A key piece of ahimsa is not to judge yourself too harshly even as tyou may "do harm" to others…maybe notice where you "stumbled" and say to yourself, "I will do better next time." Jai, Richard

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