What is Ahimsa?
Ahimsa is “non-violence” at its purest form. It’s the age-old practice of “do no harm” that can be seen in many religions around the world including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Yet despite being a key virtue in most of them, none has been able to apply it into everyday life as Jainism has. That’s because as simple as it sounds, ahimsa has a far broader meaning than just physical non-violence.
Therefore, before hitting the floor and getting onto your yoga mat, you must check the following:
- Are you feeling fit to exercise?
- Have you recovered from your previous yoga session?
- Have you had the proper diet as planned?
- Did you sleep enough?
If your answer to all of these questions is yes, then you can go ahead and get on with your yoga routine as usual. But if your answer to any of these questions is No, then I’m afraid you should stop.
Over-ambition can not only take away the efficacy of your yoga session but can also cause injuries, the last thing you ever want.
Ahimsa in Psychological Terms
Ahimsa is the belief that one should respect all living beings and avoid violence towards others and oneself in all aspects of life. So, violence here is not limited to just physical harm but also to thoughts, behavior, actions, diet (being vegetarian since you should not harm any animal let alone eat it) and most of all your intent or attitude. After all, it’s not always the physical force that can harm, damage, or kill someone; your words, tone of voice, or staring at someone with even the slightest of ill-will can also cause harm bad enough to hurt others as well as yourself by the law of karma.
The opposite of ahimsa is called ‘himsa’, and it should always be avoided to keep good health.
Moreover, ahimsa is not something to be exercised with other humans alone. It applies to everyone and everything. Starting from yourself, fellow humans, wild animals, harmless insects and other living beings such as plants, trees and whole of nature to non-living things as well. For instance, how often do you feel like breaking an object when you’re angry? Yeah, well that’s himsa, the opposite of ahimsa, something you should always refrain from.
Moving on, Ahimsa is also quite important for yoga practitioners, especially for those who follow the eight-limbic system of Raja yoga. Let’s take a look.
Ahimsa in Yogic Terms
Ahimsa is the foremost code of ethics according to the science of yoga. To be specific, it is the first of five “Yamas” or self-restraints-the first limb of yoga as an eight-fold path devised by Patanjali in Yoga Sutra.
Regular self-restraint of ahimsa purifies your thoughts, words, deeds, heart and soul thus setting up the moral ground for physical yoga. It’s only after you’ve learned and practiced it that you can move on to other Yamas such as truthfulness, non-stealing, purity, and non-attachment. All these factors and more play a crucial role in enhancing the efficacy of your yoga session.
Its Relationship with Yoga
Ahimsa can help you realize your highest, truest and purest self. In yoga poses, it means knowing your own physical limitations and level of experience so as to have a safe and sound yoga experience. In other words, it’s about letting go of any inferiority complex that you may have about your body or physical ability.
By respecting your own limits and boundaries, you can avoid getting frustrated or too aggressive when reaching for the full extent of a yoga pose. Besides, regardless of how strong and flexible you are, you should never push yourself over the edge because too much of that can be actually painful.
So, you can challenge yourself as much as you like in order to grow, but never too much to please your own ego. Put simply, copying or competing with someone, especially in yoga, is a big NO! That’s because yoga is an individual practice that works differently for everyone.
Trying to imitate someone will not necessarily give you the same benefits, instead it can do more harm than good. And that’s where Ahimsa comes into picture as it prepares you to accept and cope with any and all setbacks that you may come across during your yoga routine as well as in life. Speaking of which, let’s end this article here by going through the major benefits of ahimsa in our day-to-day life.
The Sanskrit symbol of ahimsa means doing no harm to living beings, including yourself.
Benefits of Ahimsa
Ahimsa makes you a better person as it gives you the right attitude to lead a moral life. It involves complete absence of violence, hatred or negative thought process from all aspects of life, be it physical, mental, emotional, moral or spiritual.
In its purest form, ahimsa becomes much more than avoidance of violence. It becomes unconditional love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness. It lets you have an innate sense of belonging to all things living or non-living which eventually gives you the feeling of divine oneness within this vast universe. And that my dear is the ultimate goal of ahimsa.
Here’s a quick highlight of major benefits of Ahimsa:
- Increases will power and acceptance
- Encourages love and compassion for the self and others
- Purifies thoughts and mentality
- Generates peace of mind
- Helps overcome stress, anger, fears, hate and insecurities
- Enhances our sense of belonging
- Improves confidence, patience and communication
All-in-all practicing ahimsa can help you become positive, peaceful and humble towards life, yourself, and others including the nature, universe and the cosmos.
A freelance writer, a poet and an avid reader. He’s a passionate wordsmith who believes in writing content which is simple, beautiful and informative. He’s a practised communicator coached by British Academy.
Apart from being a playful scribbler, he’s a hardcore music fan and loves exploring space and science. He is also a spiritual soul and fitness enthusiast. Yoga, meditation and workout are some of his favourite health activities.