The beauty and art of Ahimsa (non-violence)
What does it mean, how to practice this both on and off your mat and manifesting a true unconditional love for self and all other beings?
While many of us seek out a yoga class for the physical practice, there are so many other layers that we can explore and dive into.
Modern yoga has focused much of its attention on the sutras that describe the “eight limbs” of yoga, which in turn, paves a way for us to attain freedom from suffering and reach a higher state of self. These eight limbs, derived from numerous texts and in-depth studies into the foundation of the ancient practice of yoga, are a great source of inspiration to live a balanced life – both on and off the mat.
Over the next few weeks, I will share with you some thoughts around each of the limbs based on my studies and interpretations of each. A guide to some poses, mudras, mantras, meditations… that can be used and integration of a number of different ways to practice in everyday life, as well as on the mat.
Kicking things off, we dive right into the first limb, and look at the first jewel Ahimsa. First a little on Yamas: The yamas are the ethical concepts that are like a code of conduct that guide how we interact with others. These social restraints ask us to find and cultivate a sense of peace within ourselves and to spread this to the world around us.
There are five jewels that make up the yamas, today we are exploring the first one – Ahimsa, which translates to non-violence. Ahimsa became such an integral foundation to the yogic philosophy that it is the very basis on which all else is built on. In a nutshell I like to think of this as ‘do good, be good’.
a·him·sa nonviolence towards oneself and all living creatures; an attitude of universal benevolence; the spontaneous expression of the highest form of love; the complete absence of violence from mind, body and spirit.
When I was first introduced to this concept, my initial thoughts went straight to physical violence, but it is SO much more than that. Whilst physical violence is one of the more gross forms of violence, other ways that we can cause harm are mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Many ‘a-ha’ moments have happened for me the more I explore this. It all comes back to self-love. Why does self-love have anything to do with how we treat others, you ask!? Grreeeeattt question! The way we interact with our self, the thoughts about our self and things we tell our self, ultimately become the way we interact with our outside world. So, if we can start to notice the self-talk and in this time of observation, listen to and really hear how we communicate within, this will give us a very good insight in to how we treat others.
There are two basic emotions (haha – I say basic, but they are often very complex and come in many different disguises) 1- Love and 2- Fear.
Himsa (violence) comes from fear. When we are in balance and secure within our self, there is less fear. We need to first find and establish safety and security to be able to feel safe and secure with others. If this is lacking, there may be an increase in our tendencies to lash out. Causing harm to self and others. Ahimsa at it’s core, asks us to find unity with all others.
This does not mean we have to get along with everyone who’s path we cross, rather it asks us to live from a place of inner
So – how do we practice ahimsa!? A few suggestions to try:
Meditate daily (for at least 5 minutes). Take time to examine your emotions and mental patterns. Taking note of any feelings that manifest in this time and when you find any thoughts/feelings/sensations that are unhelpful/harmful/not coming from love – start to replace these with a mantra. This ‘face-and-replace- method is a way to create new mind chatter and find a more helpful/useful and positive way of thinking.
A daily practice of meditating will deepen your connection to self and help you to notice patterns that are ‘stuck’. The more connection into self you can find, the more you can search the internal source of unconditional self-love.
“Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu”
“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all”
Here are two of my faves you can use in the background -
While you could pick a number of poses, the two I have picked to focus on are… balasana (childs pose) and Virabhadrasana eka (Warrior I).
Balasana this one radiates and embodies ahimsa the most (in my humble opinion). The connection of the upper and lower extremities, grounding through the head and even rocking side to side to massage through the third eye. I see this pose as a way to connect into yourself, be grounded and really listen in to the self-talk.
Virabhadrasana eka there is a power and might in the lower body – an established and strong foundation that then radiates up through the body, across and lifted through our heart centre. This energy continues to travel up through the arms (an extension of the heart chakra) and out to the world.
Kapota Mudra. Palms of the hand together, then create some space between the palms – leavening fingertips and heel of the hand pressed together, centred at the heart. This helps us to activate the heart centre, where love and compassion reside.
Any oils that resonate with the heart chakra (Frankincense, Rose, Ylang Ylang, Jasmine, Lavender) are always a good choice.
Off the mat…
· Before you speak ask yourself “is it true? Is it appropriate right now? Is it harmful?”
· When sitting in traffic (I know… this one is a biggy for me too) instead of getting ‘mad’ with traffic, take the time to slow down and notice things about the drive you haven’t before.
· Smile! Smile at 3 random people for no reason. The world could use more love!
· Do something for just you EVERY SINGLE DAY for at least five minutes (my go to options – a hot bath, a book and cup of tea, walking my dogs in a new location, Netflix binge!!!)
I could literally talk and share way more about this topic as it has so much incredible power behind it.
For now, digest these and feel free to comment below with questions, further suggestions and your self-care routine.