The 8 limbs of Ashtanga Yoga (Yama – Ahimsa)

Ahimsa is the first of Yamas in the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga. It is the yoga practice of non-violence. This refers not only to physical violence, but also to the violence of words or thoughts. It literally means not to injure or show cruelty to any creature or any person in any way whatsoever.


Ahimsa is, however, more than just lack of violence as adapted in yoga. It means kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things. It also has to do with our duties and responsibilities too. Ahimsa implies that in every situation we should adopt a considerate attitude and do no harm – it is the total and complete absence of violence from one’s mind, body and spirit.


To practice Ahimsa is to be constantly vigilant, to observe ourselves in interaction with others and to notice our thoughts and intentions. Practising Ahimsa means we take responsibility for our own harmful behavior and attempt to stop the harm caused by others. Thoughts of guilt, resentment, disappointment all have a seed of violence within them. When we are unable to forgive ourselves or someone else, when we carry resentment; when we expect too much of ourselves or others; when we expect the world to run according to our liking we are being violence towards ourselves and the rest of the world.


Practise of Ahimsa develops love. Ahimsa is non-violence and non-violence is unconditional love. When there is Ahimsa, we will find love and selfless service. We should never retaliate nor wish to offend anybody. We should not entertain any evil thought against anybody. We achieve that non-violence by learning to love and be loved.


I know it is not that easy to attain ahimsa because it works on not just on our thoughts, but also on our speech and actions. We need the strong will power to practice Ahimsa. Ahimsa to me means abstaining from violence to all earth’s creatures. When you are ahimsa, people around you becomes non-violence – ‘what we do echoes back’. Hence I strongly believe that by embracing this ideal, it will lead us to a better way of life and also a better world which we lived in.