Ahimsa – Beyond the Bending

5 mins read
man with sign reading Seeking Human Kindness, ahimsa


This week we’re going to focus on the first of the Yama: Ahimsa (non-violence). Ahimsa is the foundation to all the other guidelines in the 8 limbs of yoga.
It is the key to a harmonious relationship with the world and a tranquil inner life.
Apart from the obvious (don’t go around smacking people!) Ahimsa refers to violence in thought and word as well as deed. 

“In the presence of one firmly established in non-violence, all hostility ceases” – Sutra 2: 35

As the quote above from the Yoga Sutra suggests: all hostility is to cease. This includes hostility towards yourself, through negative inner chatter, harmful habits and being too hard on yourself.

Once we begin to focus on how we are violent to ourselves, we can replace harmful with harmonious and emanateĀ it out to others. How can you treat others with non violence, if your inner world is a battlefield?

We must first tend to our inner demons and then live non-violence with integrity.

Check out our post 10 life Changing Habits for Happiness and success

ahimsa love shouldn't hurt

Ahimsa in thoughts:

So let’s explore ways to find inner harmony and in doing so emit harmony to others.

Beginning with the inner world, start to become mindful of how you speak to yourself.
Try meditation with the intention of just listening and get to know your chattering ego!

When the negative self talk arises, try having a conversation with this voice. You might feel a little strange at first, but prove it wrong!

When self violent thoughts arise such as ‘you’re not good enough’ or ‘why can’t you do this, you’re useless’, say well you’re wrong…I am good enough and list what you’re wonderful at.

You can literally retrain your mind through this simple tool. Become an expert of your ego by replacing the negative self talk with everything you’re wonderful at.
And if you struggle to think of any, write a list of everything you are proud of and start to see your own magic.

See this article on ego “Less Ego More Amigo”

Alongside violent self talk, Ahimsa also applies to violent thoughts towards others. This includes judgement, anger, jealousy and  resentment.
The path of a yogi is one of purity, and focusing negatively on others will only exacerbate your own insecurity. Practising non judgement can be as simple as not gossiping, refraining from discussing others unless focusing on their light.

Negative emotions towards others is wasted energy, which you could be using to up lift yourself and others.
Instead, why not try focusing on forgiveness, acceptance, compassion and kindness of yourself and others. Tend to the negative inner chatter and notice how you naturally draw away from negative outward chatter.

Ahimsa in Asana:

Now that we’ve covered Ahimsa for your internal world, let’s focus on bringing it to the mat.

We tend to have a warped perception about what it means to practice yoga, the bendier the better is what most of us think. Many avoid attending yoga classes for the fear that they can’t touch their toes or hold that dancers pose in perfect alignment.
We compare ourselves to our class neighbour and more often than not force ourselves into a posture, which either results in injury or a stream of negative talk.

Applying the principles of Ahimsa to your practice allows you to flow with ease, move with love and accept your body exactly as it is. This doesn’t mean we should not challenge ourselves, but it has to come from loving intention, otherwise we’re punishing ourselves.

himsa neon sign saying love

Some days are stronger than others and if you feel you can challenge yourself from a place of love, that’s great…just don’t force your flow!

The key is to be in tune with your body, to listen to its needs and be kind.

This arises through awareness, be present with yourself as you move between postures, how does your body feel? Is your negative inner chatter forcing you into flow through feelings of inadequacy?

Remember this is your practice, there is nobody to impress. Be gentle as you flow through your practice and take this attitude with you through your day, replacing harmfulness with harmonious.

Ahimsa is a state of mind, so remember to love yourself and be kind.

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