If you have practiced Yoga for a little while you may have heard of Ahimsa. Its one of those things that most people interpret in different ways or pick and choose how they apply it to their lives. Ahimsa means Non-Violence or Not Inflicting Harm. Its pretty broad and therefor people have taken it to mean lots of different things. This particular aspect of the Yoga Sutras was what drew me into the practice itself and what has made me stick with it. I have transformed my life because of Ahimsa and continue to learn and grow every single day, educating myself on how to apply it even deeper to everyday life. The principles of this practice can seem overwhelming at first, especially if you have never thought about it before.
Have no fear! I present you the most basic and applicable ways to incorporate Ahimsa into everything you do. Lets begin.
Not Harming Others
- Seems simple enough. Don’t punch, kick, cut, shoot, or run over anybody! Yay, we covered that one. Oh but wait, theres a little bit more… You also have to avoid screaming, cursing, talking down to or at, gossip, lie, or defame others. And your thoughts, you can’t think badly about others either. Did the shirt you buy contribute to child labor? How about the coffee you drank, did the farmer growing it get compensated fairly? Everything you do or purchase could be contributing to the harm of another person. Does this seem extremely difficult? Maybe, but don’t stress, you do the best you can in the moment. Do some research and buy organic and fair trade, shop locally and USA made. Rather than thinking badly of the person who cut you off in traffic try instead to wish them well, they may be having a difficult time in life or are in a rush, hell they may have even forgotten that their exit was coming up!
Not Harming Yourself
- This one is easy! Don’t smoke anything, drink anything, or insert anything anywhere that might kill you. Done. Oh but how about that article about how Bacon causes cancer, did you eat a piece of carcinogenic food? And the clorox you used to wipe the counter with, did the chemicals harm your lungs when you breathed in the fumes? What about that time you looked in the mirror and called yourself fat because your thighs touch when you stand up straight? Or that self hate you put on yourself for not achieving something you wanted? Everything we think, say, or do about and to ourselves can be a form of harm. The main thing Ahimsa wants us to do is recognize all the ways we may be hurting ourselves and become more aware. Again, just do the best you possibly can and dont beat yourself up if you make a mistake.
Not Harming Animals
- ooh, this one really trips our society up majorly. We know that its bad to abuse a dog or cat because they feel pain and suffering, we even have laws protecting them from such harm. Ahimsa, however, says all beings that are sentient should not be harmed. That means all animals that feel pain should not be harmed. If you’re not a hunter or go fishing this may seem pretty easy for you, but what if you pay a third party to harm an animal in the form of meat, fur, cosmetics, or leather products? A simple youtube search on Slaughter Houses and Animal Testing will show you why. Don’t overwhelm yourself and get caught up, if you decide to take Ahimsa full on just go little by little. Its taken me years to transform and I am still learning every day. Just be mindful and do the best you can.
Not Speaking Badly of Others
- Do on to others as you would have them do onto you, or in this case say. Often we get caught up in gossip and ranting that its hard to realize we are speaking badly of others. Why would this be a thing to avoid? Yoga believes in Karma and how you think of others is a reflection of yourself. If you speak ill will onto another, what does that say about you? It also has to do with where your focus is. If you are constantly talking about someone else then you are just giving them more attention, plus all that negative energy gets stored in your body. This concept applies to celebrities and politicians as well. Next time you find yourself speaking of others in a negative way, try and slow down or stop and instead wish them well, and move on. No need to beat yourself up.
Not Creating Drama
- Drama breeds more drama, and it becomes a never-ending-story. This is particularly difficult within family members because there seems to be so much invested emotion within our closest circle, we become passionate about wrong doings that Drama can stir up and cause all types of trust issues and bad vibes. Take a look at what brings you the most drama, is it a friend, a family member, or a partner? When we surround ourselves with negativity the drama is bound to continue. Try and distance yourself from it as much as possible, and make sure not to contribute to it as well. When you find yourself in tough situations just be neutral, as much as possible. This will not only dissipate the drama but also make you more trust worthy. Its difficult but think to yourself, what would Ahimsa do?
Emotional Violence, Physical Violence, Sexual Violence
- Violence of any kind is wrong and you don’t deserve it. If you have been or are being abused, seek help asap. Find people or an organization you trust and take steps to leave that situation. If you are inflicting violence onto others, take a moment to ask yourself why. Violence usually stems from fear, and that fear results in behavior that wouldn’t otherwise appear. Think about what has brought you to that state of mind, what can you do reconcile with that behavior, and make steps to stop immediately.