The first Yama of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra declares no harm to oneself or others, physically or mentally. It encourages us to live in a way that we cause no pain to the mind, body or spirit. In the purest form, ahimsa is the expression of the highest form of love — an unconditional love – in thought, word, and deed.
Practicing Ahimsa can be from various aspects. On the mat, it can be translated into a kind practice, being gentle with ourselves in an Asana, or meditating in a comfortable position. Off the mat, in our everyday lives, Ahimsa can be mastered by compassionate and conscious choices.
“Yoga gives you the chance to practice non-violence in your mind at the same time. While tuning into your body, simultaneously start to watch as your thoughts form. Cultivate your awareness of your own thoughts to find if there are hints of violence against yourself or others in your life. Awareness doesn’t mean reaction, though. You don’t need to push these thoughts away, just recognize them. Observe as they come into your consciousness, and then watch as they again leave.” — GAIA
For all kinds of yoga practitioners – both beginners and experienced, there is always some frustration when we don’t progress as quickly as we like in our physical practice. Keeping the Ahimsa thought throughout our yoga practice guides us to forego the negativity and accepting our body completely – no matter how strong or flexible we are at this moment.
Physical non-violence in this aspect means not pushing ourselves over the edge to the point of harm. Although it can be easy to get caught up in trying to perfect poses or push your body to build strength (I must admit that sometimes I push myself past obvious discomforts and unpleasant sensations just to prove something to myself) – that may not always be what your body needs.
While it’s true that yoga can be a great physical form of exercise, I learnt that respecting our boundaries and listening to our bodies allows the practice to become sustainable while allowing us to really learn about ourselves.When we let go of the expectations of what we ‘should’ be able to do, and stop scolding ourselves with harmful thoughts, our body responds by working with us, not against us.
In our everyday lives, Ahimsa practice reminds us to be loving and thoughtful. A simple place to start practicing ahimsa is to maintain a positive mindset – to just be mindful when the negativity takes over and redirecting that thought pattern. Like the saying below:
“Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy.”
Finally, Practice self-love. Nourish yourself with little things that makes you feel content.
“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha