Yoga says living non-violently will make us happy. That seems obvious enough. But what happens when others treat us poorly, or criticize us. How can we be happy then? How can we be happy when our friends and loved ones ignore us or put us down or even emotionally or physically abuse us? How can we stay happy? Our first impulse is to strike back and get even with them. We want to let them feel the pain that we feel.
Yoga also says that skillful living is non-violent living. If we live skillfully, we will then experience happiness even when others are violent towards us, or when we are violent towards ourselves or when we feel an intense desire to get the perpetrators back for their uncaring actions.
Miss E is a perfect example of skillful living that, even when she is harmed or put down, becomes non-violent and becomes happy again. Whenever she comes into the Center feeling down because she is ignored at Friendship Corner, she puts herself into the yoga posture called crocodile. She knows that that yoga posture forces her to breathe diaphragmatically. She also knows that when she breathes diaphragmatically, she begins to relax and her mind starts to ignore the external nonsense that triggered her anxiety and anger. She spends from three minutes to 20 minutes in crocodile depending on the severity of the insults that she has felt. After doing what she knows will help her, she gets up and leaves the Center renewed and returns happily and confidently to her challenging world.
Sometimes attending to our diaphragmatic breathing is all it takes to return ourselves to a state of joy. When we don’t act in a skillful manner, we are treating ourselves with violence because we are disregarding our needs.
Like Miss E, loving ourselves and acting in a way that reduces the violence in our personal lives is the key to not only happiness, but to loving ourselves non-violently. We are practicing the yama “ahimsa.”