What is Ahimsa in Yoga – Yamas has five guidelines for how a yogi should interact with the world around him. So, let’s begin with understanding the first Yama which is ‘Ahimsa or Ahinsa’:
Ahimsa: Refraining from Violence or belief in Non-Violence
Everyone should follow the path of non-violence. Non-violence does not simply mean abstaining from harming or hurting others physically; it also means practicing non-violence in every other aspect of life, whether in thoughts, words, or actions.
Along with others, it is also essential to be sensitive to yourself so that you should not hurt yourself in any way. Every other physical being and even nature also falls under the exact definition of non-violence.
By keeping yourself away from non-violence, you will be filled with such positive emotions that not only you from within but everything you come in contact with, whether other living beings or the environment around you, is filled with love and harmony.
It is believed that by practicing non-violence, yogis develop a sense of compassion and peace with themselves and the world around them, leading them to a real transformation into a yogi.
How to practice Ahimsa in everyday life ?
As already discussed, Ahimsa should reflect in your thoughts, words, actions, and even Yoga practice.
1-) Ahimsa in Thoughts
Our thoughts are the basis of our life. Many famous proverbs clearly explain how thoughts change into your personality and make it your destiny, so practice non-violence in your thoughts.
Despite everything being good, if your thoughts are not good and positive, you can never be physically and mentally healthy. Along with good food, exercise, and daily activities, you must pay conscious attention to your thoughts.
Every violent thought that comes to your mind, whether to speak badly or do wrong to someone, must be changed immediately upon seeing it consciously. Only then can you rule your mind with positive thinking.
2-) Ahimsa in words
It is not necessary that you can do violence only by killing or hurting someone; your ill-spoken words can do as much violence to someone as you can physically.
So before speaking, weigh your words and speak only that which does not hurt anyone’s heart because non-violence involves causing the least harm to humans and other creatures.
And words spoken with love can make someone happy, inspire and, at the same time, fill one’s heart with love. So every time you speak, pay special attention to your words.
3-) Ahimsa in actions
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali clearly say that you must be mindful of all your actions; if in any way they can hurt anyone, be it human beings, any other living being, or even nature, then put an end to that action.
To physically hurt, kill, or incite others to do so is certainly violence. Along with physical violence, mental and emotional violence also falls under the category of violence.
Also, violence is reacting negatively to a situation that puts your thoughts, feelings, or actions under enmity, judgment, hatred, and anger.
4-) Ahimsa in Yoga Practice
Now that non-violence seems so simple and straightforward, there is a need to understand non-violence even in yoga practice. The eight limbs of Yoga have clearly stated the benefits of practicing Ahimsa in Yoga.
While practicing yoga, we want us to be perfect in performing all the yoga asanas as soon as possible. But I want to remind you again that non-violence means following non-violence even with oneself.
Taking special care of non-violence during yoga means to stop thinking negatively about your body and accept yourself completely.
By practicing Yoga daily with difficult asanas or Yoga postures, we motivate ourselves to move forward. Nevertheless, non-violence means that while practicing Yoga we should respect and listen to our body and not harm it or challenge it beyond limits. In this way you can make yoga practice more sustainable.
5-) Ahimsa in Yogic Diet
Ahimsa or non-violence is one of the primary virtues of life where it is necessary to be mindful of the food you are eating. Yoga considers any killing or loss of life to be himsa or against moral ethics.
Logically, all living beings have an equal right to live and therefore deserve complete protection from all kinds of injury. While the guidance of non-violence advises not to harm any other living thing, and therefore suggests abstaining from eating animals, it is still everyone’s personal choice as to their lifestyle.
Whether you eat meat or not, whether or not you violently eat animal-derived products is your choice, but keep in mind how sensitive and supportive you can be to nature and the environment when you follow the yogic diet.
The Yogic diet’s benefits in improving focus, flexibility, and strength, along with the higher pranic energy in vegetarian food, has led Ashtanga Yoga to advocate this diet.