4 Ways to Practice Ahimsa in Your Daily Life
If you’ve been doing yoga for a while, you’ve probably heard of the yamas and niyamas, which are included in the eightfold path of yoga. Today, I will be sharing some of my thoughts on ahimsa, which is the first of principle of the yamas, aka ethical restraints.
DISCLAIMER: I am by no means a yogi master who has discovered the true meaning of life (elevation?) and has decided to impart this knowledge on the mere mortals. I’m just a gal who likes to get her yoga on.
Ahimsa is the sanskrit word for non-violence, and it seems pretty straightforward. I remember I first came across it on Instagram. Underneath a brightly-lit, breathtaking view of a beach with a straight-as-a-pin handstand there was the caption ‘ahimsa’. It was described as non-violence or non-harm; showing compassion to oneself and others. That’s a piece of cake, I thought. I’ve always been a hippy, make-love-not-war flower-child type of a person. I continued to scroll down my feed, double-tapping the sunsets with the dime-store wisdom. That is until this summer. You see, as part of my yoga teacher training course, I was asked to explore the yamas and niyamas in my daily life. That’s when it hit me. Ahimsa was very hard to practice in real-life.
Here are some conclusions I reached when I observed the obstacles I found along the way, which blocked my path to transforming into a higher life form.
Negative thoughts are a no-no
Violence comes in many forms. It can be actions, of course, but it can also be words or thoughts. And it’s not always directed to other people or things. It can very likely be directed to ourselves. I noticed that throughout the day, I can be very critical of myself. “Why did you do that?” “Why did you say that?” “Why did you THINK that?” the little voices bellowed.
That’s when I realized something. If you are constantly critical of yourself, you will inevitably be critical of others. If the only thoughts going through your head are negative, there are minimal chances you are sending positive vibes into the world. Therefore, if you are trying to practice ahimsa and want to do no harm to others, you must start with yourself. Give yourself some sweet lovin’.
Don’t skip meals and get your zzz’s
Next, I tried to observe when these negative thoughts came about more often, or when I felt like showing compassion seemed to be the hardest damn thing in the world. It was when I was hungry. Sleepy. Tired. Bored. It was when I was out of balance in general. I was short-tempered, impatient and just plain grumpy, so how could I be compassionate to others? Yet again, it starts from you. If you are not feeling well, it’s twice as difficult to make others feel well.
Just let it go
Sometimes you just need to let go and let things flow. Put a stop to controlling everything. I observed how my need to control what happens, when it happens, how it happens, etc., was just a product of various fears I have. When you are scared, you are hidden and shut off from the world. When you’re are shut off, you are rarely aware of what’s happening around you, nor are you open to new experiences, people or ideas. How exactly are you going to be compassionate when you aren’t actually PRESENT? You guessed it; this starts from you as well. Find out why you are holding on to preconceived ideas or outcomes, so you can let go and be present in the your life.
Use your yoga practice for… practice
It’s easier to consider ahimsa in your yoga practice and then transfer it to your life. For example, when practicing yoga, do you harm yourself in any way? Do you push your body beyond its limits? Do you deny it rest when needed? Do you glance at the other students in the yoga studio and compare yourself to them? Do you base your self worth on whether you can do a certain pose or not? If you answered yes to any one of these questions, then you’re probably not ahimsa-ing as much as you should. Bring some ahimsa into your yoga practice, and you’ll see that soon enough it will start oozing out into other parts of your life as well.
This is simply scratching the surface when it comes to ahimsa in our modern lives, but these are some issues that arose when I was observing it in my life.
What do you think? How do you apply ahimsa? What difficulties do you come across?
Gilberto OchoaSeptember 2, 2017 at 6:07 pm
Beautiful article…It helps us tremendously. Gil
Eleni GiannariSeptember 5, 2017 at 5:56 pm
I’m glad you enjoyed it! Thank you so much for your kind words.
Amanda SidesSeptember 3, 2017 at 12:57 pm
This is great, because I think that normally when people think of ahimsa, they think of not doing harm to others. They pat themselves on the back, thinking, yeah, I didn’t punch anyone today, I’m good! 🙂 But we forget that we have to extend that non-harming to ourselves, and that’s the hardest part. Practice, practice!
Eleni GiannariSeptember 5, 2017 at 5:57 pm
As with everything else, it takes a lot of practice but your learn so much about yourself in the process. Thank you for your response!
LunaJune 17, 2020 at 11:25 am
This was everything I needed to hear! So happy I stumbled upon this! I am a month of of my 200HR YTT & during that time COVID-19 struck so we had to take our practice and studies online which was extremely tough. Then, with the climate of the world currently starting from the beginning of the 8 Limbs of Yoga with the Yamas and Ahimsa is number one. We need so much Ahimsa right now. So why not start with self. Thank you for this!
Truth ChangesSeptember 17, 2020 at 8:06 am
[…] a partner to Ashima (nonviolence), Satya (truthfulness) prevents nonviolence from being a wimpy cop-out and nonviolence […]