The Art of Ahimsa

Ahimsa, the first of the 5 yamas, means non-violence. At first glance, many people think that ahimsa is practised simply by not engaging in violent acts like fighting but in actual fact, ahimsa has a much deeper meaning to it. Apart from not causing harm physically and mentally, true ahimsa takes things one step further by encompassing acts of compassion, empathy and kindness.
Here are ways by which we can incorporate ahimsa into our lives:

  1. Non-violence to self

Showing ahimsa to oneself does not only mean not engaging in dangerous activities like playing with fire or attempting suicidal acts. It also means taking steps to take care of one’s body. How many times have you heard your yoga teacher say, “Listen to your body!” during a yoga class? Unfortunately, words like these often fall onto deaf ears as athletes ignore warning signs like pain and push themselves to the point of injury. To practise ahimsa, one should make an effort to pay attention to his/her body and this means eating in times of hunger, drinking in times of thirst and resting in times of fatigue/illness. We can also bring the practice of ahimsa a step further by maintaining an active lifestyle, thinking positive thoughts and nourishing our body with a balanced diet complete with adequate (but not too much/little) protein, carbohydrates and fats.

  1. Non-violence to others

The practice of ahimsa towards others starts from the mind, as our actions are dictated by our thoughts. To not inflict physical harm upon others is easy, but the same may not hold true for emotional/mental harm. Let’s admit it: all of us have, at some point or another of our lives, lost our patience or said hurtful things to other people even though we didn’t really mean it. Sometimes we hurt others by speaking too quickly without taking time to think through our choice of words, other times we make bad remarks about others simply because we do not see eye-to-eye with them. In such situations, we have failed to show ahimsa to others. In order to apply the concept of ahimsa here, we should accept other people’s differences and remove judgment of others. We can also try to put ourselves in their shoes, treat others like how you would treat your loved ones, and replace criticisms with encouragement and compliments whenever we can.

  1. Non-violence towards the Earth

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. These 3 ‘R’s are the best way to show ahimsa towards the Earth. Unfortunately, a habit many of us are guilty of is hoarding. Given the ease of accessibility of information these days, it is hard not to be enticed by promotional adverts/sale flyers we see everywhere. As such, many of us often end up buying more than we need. In lucky circumstances, we do end up using the products that we bought. However, more often than not, the impulse buys end up collecting dust at the back of the cupboard, only to be rediscovered many years later when they have turned into waste. To practise ahimsa towards the Earth, we should aim to reduce waste by not buying things that we do not actually need, no matter how great the temptation may be. If this is too difficult for you, don’t worry, there are 2 other ‘R’s to fall back on. By reusing our plastic cutlery/containers, and recycling paper/aluminium cans, we are showing some ahimsa to the Earth.
Realistically speaking, complete ahimsa is not possible, for we may accidentally trample on some insects while walking or unknowingly injure someone during accidents. But nevertheless, it’s the thought behind our acts that matters most. As Ralph Waldo Emerson puts it, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” So, what are you waiting for? Start practising some ahimsa today! 🙂
Li Xin
200hr YTT (Weekend)

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