Ahimsa is one of the yamas or restraints of yoga. It means non-harming. Doing no harm is very important to a yogi, and really underlies all of the lessons that yoga teaches. When we practice ahimsa we set the intention to create respectful and loving relationships with our fellow beings- animal, plant, earth, sky, water. As with most lessons in yoga, it begins with our relationship to ourselves. If we are harmful to ourselves, can we really be non-harmful to others? One way of practicing ahimsa is to note your self-talk – negative or positive. Negative self-talk can be extremely harmful. It’s important to catch yourself when you do this and reverse those thoughts. If you’re a person that habitually refers to yourself as unimportant, for example, reverse that thought each time you notice it by simply stating “I am important”. Once we start making changes in our own thought patterns and stop harming ourselves, we are less likely to cause harm to others, whether in our thoughts or actions. Accepting all parts of ourselves is key to cultivating compassion for others.
In his book Wishes Fulfilled, Wayne Dyer speaks of the power behind “I am” statements. He says that any time you say ‘I am’ you are manifesting whatever follows. So be very careful how you use this statement. Start noticing if you use ‘I am’ in positive, uplifting ways. Are your ‘I am’ statements consistent with what you want to manifest in your life?
Some ways you can bring ahimsa to your daily life are:
– Notice if you reflexively kill insects. Can you trap it and escort it out instead? Is it really causing any harm?
– Look at the products you buy. Depending on your resources, can you purchase cruelty free cosmetics, fair-trade coffee, clothes not assembled in sweat shops
– Is it feasible to eat a meat-free diet? If not, can you purchase from a source that does not engage in cruelty to animals? Can you honour the animal that gave up it’s life prior to eating?
You can bring ahimsa into In your asana practice first by observing the judgments you make about what you can and cannot do. Notice the thoughts that arise, are you making positive ‘I am’ statements while practicing? Also, relinquish the goal of physical accomplishment. If we’re forcing ourselves into poses that we aren’t ready for, we will likely hurt ourselves.
Practicing ahimsa means making sure that what we think and do is in line with our ethical principles and our intentions. So give some thought to what you really believe and what you really wish to accomplish in your life and ensure that your thoughts and actions support them in a non-harmful way.