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Sober Yoga Girl - Ahimsa: Living with Love with Kristen Hutchinson


Hi, friend. This is Alex McRobs, founder of The Mindful Life Practice, and you're listening to the Sober Yoga Girl podcast. I'm a Canadian who moved across the world to the Middle East at age 23, and I never went back. I got sober in 2019, and I now live full-time in Bali, Indonesia. I've made it my mission to help other women around the world stop drinking, start yoga, and change their lives through my online Sober Girls Yoga community. You're not alone, and a sober life can be fun and fulfilling. Let me show.

You how. Good morning, afternoon, evening to whoever is joining us or tuning in. It is evening where I am. I'm here in Bali and it's 7:00 PM and I'm sitting with Kristen, and it's 7:00 AM where Kristen is. That's pretty cool.

Nice and early and almost your bedtime.

Yes. You had a week off work last week, right? We were just chatting about that.

I did. Yeah, it was beautiful. It was a gorgeous weather.

So I'm really excited.


Oh, Siobhán is watching. Siobhán says, Hey, Alex and Kristen.

Hi, Siobhán. Hi.

All right. So this is our first video in our series of videos about yoga philosophy and how to live yoga. If you're tuning in and watching, let us know in the comments where you're watching from if you have any questions for us about anything that we're going to be sharing about. Our plan is to really talk through the yamas of yoga over the next few weeks and each yama and what it really means to live with that yama in mind. So I want to pull up... I had something up with me and I closed it already. But our first yama is a hemsa. And a hemsa is non-violence. And I'm going to read to you guys what this translation is. So nonviolence in all aspects of life, from the physical to the mental to the emotional, it's the conscious integration of compassion into every aspect of daily life. And this means not harming others ourselves or nature, not thinking negative thoughts about ourselves and others, making sure what we do and how we do it is done in harmony rather than causing harm.

So what are your... What are your HymnSA? Tell me about your Hymn's practices, Kristen. What does that mean to you?

Yeah, this is probably my favorite yana, and I feel like it weaves really well into all the other ones that we're going to talk about and has a role within all of them. But for this one, this has been the practice that I've really worked on the most because, and I think it likely resonates for a lot of people, is really, in particular, the practice of how we speak to ourselves. I think I've shared this story with you before, but when I was on my yoga teacher training in Costa Rica, my roommate and I decided to focus on a hemza for our time together. We were holding each other accountable with that and practicing in different ways. One of the first ways that we decided to practice it was actually just like, we had a lot of bugs in our room and we just decided we were going to capture them all and release them. Then we were like, we're going to practice a hemsa, and that's what we did. Then this one day, I think I was just in... I think in Yoga teacher training, you go through a lot of healing and a lot of emotions come up.

I think I was just in a bit of a more cloudy headspace that day. I was saying things and I didn't even realize what I was saying. She just shouted a hemsa at me and it stopped me. I'm like, Wow, you're right. I didn't even hear what I was just saying to myself. I would never say those things to anyone that I love and care about, so why am I saying them to myself? What I tried to start doing in my daily life is if I'm catching myself going in that spiral of negative self-talk, just repeating that word in my head to bring me back to my body and to the moment and out of that spiral. And that's been a really good practice and really eye opening of just the things that we say to ourselves. It's so cruel. We would never in a million years say that to anyone that we love.

Yeah. And that's such a good example because I feel like, I don't know about you, but growing up until I started yoga, I had no awareness of my thought patterns and these thought spirals. And I didn't understand that I was shaping my narrative of the world based on my thought patterns and how I was perceiving things to be. And once you have an awareness of that, of your thoughts are literally shaping, like how you feel about yourself, how you feel about other people, how you feel about the scenario you're in. And by altering your thoughts to make them more compassionate towards yourself, you could change your whole day, your whole week, your whole life. Absolutely.

It's so true. I think probably up until about two years ago, I would even say when I dove deeper into yoga and the yoga philosophy is when I really started to pay attention to my thought pattern. I think yoga is a beautiful start because you get very grounded into your body and into the moment. Even in your practice, if you're having just an off day mentally, you can be putting yourself down of not doing the posture to the way in which you want to do it, or if you're comparing yourself to someone on the mat beside you, not to the level that maybe they are. And so it's also in those moments bringing yourself back to your practice is your practice, not someone else's. And so I started to notice it there, but I think made more connections the deeper I dove into yoga philosophy and all of that.

And that's a big thing, too, is really how you're doing your practice and how you're doing anything, the way in which you're practicing exercising or, for example, I went back to the gym today for the first time in months. Okay, well, I had a personal trainer briefly for a few periods of times in Bali, but before that, I hadn't been to the gym probably since COVID. But anyway, I was so excited to go back. But I could feel when we're doing weightlifting and I could feel my right wrist because I had this injury. And that was like an example of like, okay, I could keep pushing through this, or I could just soften and go easy on myself because the other option is like, I could fracture my wrist again. And so that's an example of how can I apply Hymnza in not just my yoga practice, but my other practices as well.

Yeah, absolutely. Another really beautiful way that I've been trying to do it is also, I think in life we can come across different scenarios and with people who may have a negative impact on our lives, and we carry that with us. And so something I was reflecting on over the weekend when I was talking with my girlfriend, when we were having a fire out back and just, again, I just love deep soul conversations, and we were just chatting about people that have come in our paths over the years. And one thing I noticed was that I was holding on to specific scenarios that maybe had a larger impact that were really hurtful. And I did your loving kindness meditation yesterday because I felt like I just needed to release and send those people love, light, forgiveness. And that's another practice of a hymnast is we're not holding on to... It doesn't mean that we need to invite those people back into our lives, but we're not holding on to that anymore. And we're just releasing that energy from our space and sending forgiveness to them. That's another way that in realizing it's a practice of a himself.


I did the love and kindness meditation today, too. I led it for my yoga teacher training group. Yeah, it was very emotional. There were a lot of tears and a lot of really deep revelations. And it's so cool to be part of that journey for people.

It was really cool. Yeah, that's a beautiful meditation.

All right, we have a question from someone that's watching. So Jade is watching from Brisbane in Australia. And Jade says, As a non-vegetarian, I have a resistance to a Hymnza. It seems to be regularly described in terms of not doing harm to animals and eating meat-free. I would be interested in your thoughts on that. That's a great question. Are you a vegetarian, Kristen? I can't remember.

No, I go through phases where I eat meat and then I don't eat meat, but I don't identify one way or another.

Yeah, me too, actually. I've been up and down with this. Jade, it's so funny that you ask this because when I first started practicing yoga, this was such a big thing, was a Himsad vegetarian vegan to the point where most yoga retreats and yoga teacher training facilities that I've been to have been vegetarian and vegan because of this concept of linking Hymnsa with being vegetarian and vegan. And I became obsessive with it, but at the same time, I didn't have the ability to control my food, to cook for myself. I didn't really know what I was doing. And so I wanted to be vegan because I wanted to be part of the cool, yogi crowd of people that were vegan. I didn't actually know how to do it in a healthy way. And for me, it's been a huge up and down, back and forth of I'm on it for a little while, I'm off it. And then I actually went to a naturopathic doctor in must have been about a year ago who said that I should be eating meat. And I also have been looking into nutritional psychiatry. And one of the big things is that the doctors in nutritional psychiatry recommend eating fish because fish is rich in omega-3 acid and all of the things that can benefit your mental health.

And so I say this because I feel like there's become this yoga thing of a himsa, is that you're vegetarian or vegan? But actually, the practicing yogis, people in India, do consume meat. And you have Indian food that is vegan. You have Indian food that's not vegan. You have Indian food that has meat in it. And it's somehow become this thing. And there's actually a really interesting podcast, Yoga is Dead. Have you ever listened to Yoga is Dead, Kristen? Oh, my God. It's so good. It's like a six-part podcast on who killed yoga. And there's an episode. It's like, white women killed yoga is the first one. And then it's like, vegan is killed yoga. And then there's all of these things. And it's by two women that are from India, and they're basically debunking all of these things. And so there's an episode about how veganism is actually not originally from the core of yoga, and it's just been something that the Western world has tacked onto yoga. So anyway, I think a practice, a more loving practice of a himself is like learning about what you need for your body and then eating that.

Whether it's meat, whether it's vegetarian, whether there's a lot of people in yoga who have come from a disordered eating background. Having these restrictions on food is not going to be helpful for them and their wellbeing. And so for them, it's like not having any restrictions or just eating whatever they want. And so It my personal view on it is like, I don't really like the vegetarian connection to him because I feel like it makes us obsessive about this thing when in reality, there's so many people who it would benefit them for whatever reason to eat meat or eat animal products. And we really shouldn't zero in on that when there's so many other ways that we can practice non-violence. That might be your way of practicing it, but it also might not be. What are your thoughts?

You said it beautifully. I couldn't agree more. I think if it's so focused to just that, it will deter so many people from what the beautiful practice of the HEMSA could be. And so if that resonates to someone, that's fantastic. But if it doesn't, that's completely okay because it doesn't resonate for me and the way it resonates for me is all these other things that we just talked about, how we speak to ourselves. Maybe it's spring and disgusting insects that I would normally not breathe. That's my new practice of the Hymnstead. But I think the way it resonates for each individual is perfect for them, but it doesn't have to be that standardized way of thinking. So I'm definitely going to check out that podcast. That sounds really cool. It's so good. Yeah. I think there's so many ways that it can apply to your life. And so take what resonates and leave what doesn't is what I do.

Totally. And one of my favorite things about the yoga sutras is that Penthangali authored them, and he gave us these things like, okay, number one, be nonviolent. But he didn't actually say how to go about it. And that's the beauty of it is that it's up to interpretation. And my personal practice, what I really focus on with my practice of a himself is twofold in terms of how I speak, I guess, how I speak and think about other people is really it. And I think we've talked about this before, but I grew up in this gossipy judgmental culture, and I think a lot of us grew up in that culture. And that's our way that we've learned to relate to each other, especially since we can't have deep and meaningful conversations about real things like trauma or suffering or whatever. And so as a result, this way that we've learned to connect to each other has been through almost like gossiping or surface level stuff. And what I found is that that makes me feel bad about myself and I don't get a lot from it. Also the way that I think about people. I'm teaching on a yoga teacher training right now here in Bali.

It's a very interesting experience for me because the people in the training are not in a sober journey. It's just a general, it's just a yoga thing, which is so unusual for me because I normally, I so specifically just work with sober women in yoga and recovery. So it's a very niche group of people that have done a lot of work on themselves and are there to continue the journey and also are able to look at things really empathetically because of our journey that we've been through. And it's been a really interesting experience because I found myself judging some of their behavior choices because I'm just like, what is going on? There's this dynamic in the group where there's a couple that's come together that's like, the guy is now flirting with someone else and now the couple is having drama. And I'm just like, what is going on? And then I was thinking by day, whatever it was, day two or day three, there's this MaryAnne Williams quote. She says, see all human behavior as love or a call for love. And that was what I themed my practice on this morning. And I was thinking to myself, this could be the way that this person is calling for love.

This is the way that they are acting in response to not feeling loved or not feeling or whatever. And as soon as you reframe the way you're judging someone, my perspective on this guy has totally softened. And I just want to give this kid a hug who's still trying to figure out and navigate life, as opposed to I was like, Who's this punk? Oh, my God. So I think for me, it's really about catching myself in times when I'm judging and trying to reframe the perspective.

Yeah, I love that. And that resonates so much because last night I was having a conversation with one of my girlfriends. We were talking about how so often now on social media, people are face tuning their appearance. So then what you see on social media is nothing like what they look like in person. And she was talking about it from more of that gossipy space. I was reading the messages and I was like, I just had this feeling in my chest. This doesn't feel good. I just wrote something like my heart goes out to her that she feels that she's not beautiful enough as she is to do that, and I'm sending her love or something that made me feel good because everyone's going on a human experience. Everyone's going on a journey. That journey is so unique to each person that we can't judge it. We're not in their shoes. We're not walking their life. I just am starting to pause in those moments and see what feels good, and it's always sending them love. And just exactly what you said, softening, changing the perspective and seeing maybe like, they're going through something that is a call for love.

That's so true. Oh, my God, the filters. The filters. I feel like I'm starting to develop body image issues because of the TikTok camera, because of the freaking... The TikTok camera automatically alters your face without you even modifying anything. And so it's doesn't do it drastically, but it's just subtle things that make me more preferred towards the TikTok camera. And I feel like it's starting to make me feel worse about myself when I then see my actual face, my not TikTok face. I feel like the world was not like this. I mean, it wasn't like this before filters existed, but it's like I don't actually use filters by choice on my Instagram stories or my posts or anything like that. But when I'm using TikTok, the camera automatically alters my face a little bit. And I don't even think I realized it at first. I think someone told me that later on. But it's so interesting how I feel like the world is now this has just become totally normalized. And we're always looking at all these edited photos of people on social media or whatever. And I totally get why someone would then be persuaded towards doing that themselves because it's just...

I don't know if I'm making any sense, but it's just become the norm. Then you feel like your face is not beautiful the way it is, or your body is not beautiful the way it is.

Absolutely. I was thinking about it. I'm like, Okay, so that's what she wants to put on Instagram. That's okay. But then how does she feel in real life scenarios? And so my friend was saying she tends to be introverted and not make eye contact and stuff. It's heartbreaking that's what social media is doing. Because to your point, we didn't have that. Growing up, thank goodness we did not have that because I can't even imagine what that would have done to any of us at that point.

Yeah, social media.

I know.

Love to hate it. Hate to love it. Are there any other things on your Ahimzah practice, things that are coming up, things you're thinking about?

The other one that I realized, I didn't touch on. A lot of it's the inner world, I think, our inner landscape. But one other one is really just the planet as much as I can. I try to do grounding practices and just put my feet on the Earth every single day and be thankful for what we have. I find that just so grounding. If I'm in a moment of complete anxiety and chaos, I just go outside, stand in the sun, stare at the light. I'm not perfect. I can't do all the things that I think would be the most gentle to the Earth, but where I can have a small impact, I do try to. Even just caring for my property in the best way that I can is just a practice that I do. But I would say I'm more so on the inner landscape and how I speak to others. But that's another small piece that resonates with me as well.

Love that. Taking care of you. Loving your things. Loving my cat.

Yes, my kiddie. Your cat was probably so excited you were home.

I know. You know what I noticed this time, for the first time? Well, not for the first time. I think she's done this before, but I really noticed it this time is that it took her a while to warm up to me again. I think it's been a real confusing time for her because she wasn't in my house when I left. Normally, she will stay where... Well, not normally. She's had a lot of moving around, but took her a while to warm up to me. But now we're back in business.

She's so sweet.

So I have some journal prompt suggestions. Well, first of all, I found some practices. I found these online. I'm going to share the link in the Facebook group for anyone that wants to check it out. But some of the practices that I came across for him said that you might want to think about are practicing positive and loving thoughts about ourselves and others. We've talked about that. Practicing forgiveness and letting go. We talked about that already. Cultivating and spreading kindness, finding awareness about your inner world, working towards creating balance, practicing meditation, self-care, Caring for our planet, Mother Earth, trying to eliminate harm to animals, and finding ways that we can give back. And some journal prompts for himself. Anyone wants to try these this week and let us know what you thought about them, maybe journaling on 10 things you love about yourself, introducing more self care into your daily rituals, what that would look like, reflecting on your negative self talk, your judgment of others, what drives that, and then just thinking about what areas of your life you can act with more compassion towards other people.

I love that.

Yeah. So next week we're going to be back speaking about Satya. That's the second Yamama or Niama. And that is all about honesty and telling the truth. So if you have any questions or comments for us or any reflections, write them in the comments or DM us. We're happy to chat with you. And if you are curious about learning more about yoga philosophy, getting more involved, we have a few programs at the Mindful Life Practice. We have the Sober Girls Yoga 30 or 68 challenge, which you can join at any time. Kristen facilitates these. They meet on Saturday mornings, Eastern Standard Time 9:00 a. M. And that's a really amazing group to go deep into yoga and philosophy. Kristen also supports me in running the 200-hour yoga teacher trainings. We don't have another group starting for a while, but if that's something that you are interested in, just keep the look out for when we're going to be running it next. All right. Have a great week, everyone. Have a great day back at work, Kristen. Thank you. And see you all soon.

See you soon.

Hi, friend. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Sober Yoga Girl Podcast. This community wouldn't exist without you here, so thank you. And it would be massively helpful if you could subscribe, leave a review, and share this podcast so it can reach more people. If we haven't met yet in real life, please come get your one week free trial of the Sober Girls Yoga membership and see what we're all about. Sending you love and light wherever you are in the world.

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