Ahimsa is YOGA.
In my yoga studio in Ormond Beach I have a Lotus Yoga logo tank top with “ #Ahimsa ” printed on the back of the shirt. So what does Ahimsa mean? Well in basic terms, it means “non-harming or non-violence”. In Pantanjali’s 8 Limbed Path of yoga as written in the Yoga Sutras, Ahimsa is the first of the 5 “Yamas” (how we treat others). Many people think that the Asanas (the postures) are all there is to yoga…..but the physical practice of yoga is actually the THIRD limb of yoga! The Yamas (how we treat others) and the Niyamas (how we treat ourselves) come first and second…BEFORE the physical practice. I will discuss the other limbs in another post! I talk a lot about the 8 Limbs in my classes to my students, but wanted to break down the first of the five Yamas, Ahimsa, for you simply because I think it one of the most important.
Ahimsa is commonly translated to mean “non-harming or non-violence, sometimes even compassion, both towards oneself and towards others.” Ahimsa isn’t simply the practice of refraining from violent words or actions, it’s also about refraining from violent thoughts. Ahimsa is the total and complete absence of violence from one’s thoughts, words, and actions. This is NOT an easy practice to do! I often end my classes at Lotus Yoga by asking my students to “align their thoughts, words and actions, with love, compassion and without judgment; To others, and especially to ourselves.” This is, in truth, the practice of Ahimsa.
This concept is actually much more difficult than the concept of “non-violence.” People who are vegetarian or vegan, or those who do not kill the spider crawling across the floor can be thought of as practicing ahimsa, but again, it is much deeper than that.
Abstaining from violent and harmful actions is easy when you’re comfortable and secure, but abstaining from harmful thought patterns is not as easy for many people. How many of you listen to the inner critic in your head telling you that you are not good enough, successful enough, thin enough??? We all have the ability to change these mental thought patterns, to RE- WIRE our brain…. but it takes PRACTICE! One we must strive to do every day. You can practice the asanas to get a strong body, but we all should strive to practice a yogic lifestyle by taking our practice OFF of the mat, beginning with practicing AHIMSA.
Your thoughts become your words, and your words become your actions. SO keep your thoughts, words and actions positive and you can change the world! Or at least the one YOU live in every day.
One of my favorite mantras is :
“lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu” – May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may my thoughts and my actions somehow contribute to that freedom for all. Which means:
All beings. That includes yourself, your family, strangers, the spider in your bathtub, and the tree in your backyard.
Happy and free. The two most basic, inalienable rights of all beings, which we often marginalize or confine to the human realm.
If all beings everywhere were happy and free, then violence and harm would vanish because they’d have no job to do, no reason to exist, and would thus be rendered utterly unnecessary and useless!
Ahimsa is mindfulness. Ahimsa is looking in the mirror and not thinking you look fat. Ahimsa is speaking kindly to someone who you think is being rude to you. Ahimsa is taking care of mother earth by recycling.
Ahimsa is YOGA.