Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word which translates to ‘no harm’ or ‘no violence’ in English. A term of extreme importance in the Yoga Sutras, Hinduism and Buddhism.
It features in the 1st limb of Ashtanga yoga and is one of the five Yamas. (Yamas are ethical standards and a kind of code of conduct in the Yoga Sutras, which Yogi’s and Yogini’s should abide by).
To me, and i’m sure many others, ahimsa is one of the most important aspects of Yoga. Being able to do asana is a very valuable thing and we learn a lot from it. However, if we don’t practice ahimsa, or grow from our practice and incorporate ahimsa into our lives, yoga might as well be a gym class to us. We need to start, as we venture on our journeys, incorporating this into our lives…
This is the aim, right?
Ahimsa means no harm. This means to any living beings, including yourself. Peace begins with no violence and no harm. To be truly at peace, you have to be at peace with yourself and others.
When we are mean, nasty or violent towards others, it is normally an outward projection of what we are feeling inside (often referred to as the mirror theory). If we want to see change in the world, we have to start with ourselves. Once we are at peace with ourselves, we can start to drive positive change in the world.
When people treat us a certain way, or things aren’t going the way we planned in this world, when we are hard on ourselves… feelings of shame, guilt and disappointment manifest. Sometimes, we can all be guilty of expecting too much of ourselves, the people around us or the world in general. When things don’t go our way, for whatever reason, harmful feelings can start to creep in, which causes us harm and has the potential to cause others harm.
If we start to practice ahimsa, we start practicing unconditional love and compassion. The more we practice yoga, the more we start to feel this within ourselves as we become at one and united with the world around us.
Yoga and meditation makes us look at ourselves and our lives internally so that we can work on turning negative aspects of ourselves into positives, without acting on this externally, an aspect of practicing ahimsa.
How can we practice ahimsa on the mat and in our lives?
- Learn to love yourself and help yourself, through doing this, you will learn to love and help others too.
- Practice yoga gracefully, don’t force things. Try to focus on your practice and progression, not what others can do. (It is your journey after all).
- Meditation on and off the mat – if negative thoughts come in, observe them and ask them to leave. We all have them, these triggers, but we can learn to react positively to them.
- Be kind anyway – if someone is off or funny with you, it can be hard not to take it personally. Normally it isn’t a reflection on you (unless you have actually done something, where this would apply)… so be kind anyway. Everyone is fighting an internal battle none of us see behind the curtains of our minds, so just… be kind anyway.
- Research veganism – I’m not going to preach veganism or vegetarianism, but personally I think a big part of practicing ahimsa is reflecting on the pain and suffering in the world and the effect we have on the environment. I’ve slowly been transitioning to veganism and have been practicing it and feel so much better.
The things we put into our bodies affect our karma, meat eggs and dairy will affect our inner peace.
Some good documentaries to watch are cowspiracy and earthlings, both on youtube for free. Not for the faint hearted, earthlings will shock most. I believe however, we should be very aware of the pain and suffering big corporations put animals through for our food. Too many people turn a blind eye or are naive to this, or the fact eating meat is destroying the planet and is the leading cause of global warming and climate change.
Which leads me onto my last point….
What are your opinions?