Ahimsa - Cultivating Non-violence and Kindness
Updated: Jun 19, 2020
Ahimsa is the first of the Yamas; these are essentially an ethical, moral and societal code of conduct of how a yogi can go out into the world and do good. The Yamas are the first limb of The Eight Limbs of Yoga, sometimes called Patanjali’s Eight Fold Path, and are the first step towards Samadhi/Absorption (enlightenment).
What does Ahimsa Mean?
Ahimsa is usually translated to Non-violence, including both active and passive violence. Active violence is the deed that causes pain, this could be anything, from saying something hurtful to getting into a physical fight, and is usually easier to avoid than passive violence. Passive violence is the initial thought of doing something that would cause pain. It’s one thing to not act on angry thoughts, but another not to think them in the first place. Once you explore Ahimsa further and try to include it in your everyday life you may find your thoughts towards others, and yourself, become less violent. Ahimsa is often described as the complete unselfish compassion and love shown to everyone and everything around you, it is so much more than just the absence of violence. The sanskrit word Namaste is often used at the end of a yoga class or as a greeting, it literally translates to “the light in me honours the light in you”, within every person is the same light, everybody breathes the same air, and everyone was created through the same life force, or prana, so everyone is deserving of equal kindness. Ahimsa also means eliminating the violence you have towards yourself; it’s treating yourself with the same unconditional compassion you show to others.
Including Ahimsa into Everyday Life
There are many different ways to incorporate Ahimsa into your life, I would recommend reflecting on the concept and maybe journaling a few ways that would work for you, everyone’s yoga journey is different so don’t feel pressured to include any of the examples below. Yoga and mindfulness practices often focus on stilling your mind and having control over your thoughts. This is key to practicing Ahimsa. By acting more mindfully in your everyday life you’re more able to slow down and think before you act, and to be more aware of the thoughts you allow to take hold in your mind. You’re more able to give less time to violent thoughts, either towards others or yourself. This can come in many forms, from holding grudges to not liking the way you look, by having a greater awareness of your thoughts you can give less time to these negative ones. Lots of yogis chose to become vegetarian or vegan as part of their ahimsa practice. In order to reduce the suffering of animals that are reared for food and diminish their carbon footprint to reduce the suffering of future generations. This same desire to reduce violence may make some yogis pacifists.
However, the best way to embody this practice is to be kind. Let your kindness seek out those who need it and make it your intention to help others by showing compassion. This could include volunteering or donating money, supporting a friend or making a loved one a cup of tea, or treating yourself to your favourite ice cream and not beating yourself up about it. By finding ways to act with love you are actively reducing violence in all its forms. This week is Mental Health Awareness week in the UK and the theme this year is Kindness. See if, especially this week, you can try to incorporate Ahimsa into your daily life by showing yourself and others kindness, it can make a huge difference to their and your mental wellbeing. I’ll be posting throughout this week with ways to show kindness to yourself and others on instagram so check out my account for more information - @floga_yoga Or share in the comments your reflection on doing something kind for someone else, for yourself, on something kind someone else has done for you, or on your understanding of Ahimsa.
If you have found this blog post on one of the Yamas interesting, why not check out my 5 Week Yoga Course on the Yamas, including 10 live private classes: https://www.floga.org/yoga-courses