AHIMSA – Yoga Sutra Chapter 2 Verse 35 is one of the five Yamas, which are guidelines for how we can live in harmony with others. A traditional translation of Ahimsa means, “Do not kill or harm other people.” I’ve outlined here a more modern interpretation for today’s urban yogi.
Ahimsa means that when connected to our heart we naturally share lovingkindness. Love is active and it is never too late to offer healing through loving thoughts and kind actions towards yourself and others.
- Compassion / Connection / Respect
In fact, we have an infinite abundance of compassion out of respect for the connection we have with all other creatures. “The greatest illusion of this world is the illusion of separation. Things you think are separate and different are actually one and the same. We are all one people.” (Avatar) Connecting to others without fear of being judged and dropping our judgment of them helps us expand beyond fear into a place of love and respect.
- Safety / Balance / Self-care
Fear feeds violence. Lack of safety makes us afraid (whether its real or imaginary). When we are chronically living from fear we become imbalanced. A return to balanced living is the antidote to violence. However, it requires constant sensitive adjustments to maintain. These come as a result of dedicated self-care. We all grow better in positive energy. Through this we learn the way we treat ourselves will be the way we treat others.
- Empathy / Choice / Forgiveness
Practicing empathy helps us to see the other person or situation with kind eyes. It changes the knee jerk reaction of fighting back. As a result we lose interest in justifying our need to be right. Ahimsa is the constant reminder of our freedom to choose between fear or love.
On the mat, we practice choosing love as a visible expression of how we do the poses. Remember your Yoga shouldn’t hurt. It is not a punishment and you are not trying to “win”. At the end of class, during savasana, we forgive ourselves for times we weren’t as compassionate as we could have been. We recognize we are imperfectly perfect, doing the best we can. Forgiving ourselves strengthens our capacity to love the full spectrum of who we are, shadow and light. This builds our empathy muscle and in turn our ability to be more easily forgiving of others off the mat.
When we live in Ahimsa we’d rather be happy than right. We don’t have to prove ourselves worthy of love, we know we are love (aham prema). Our natural state of peaceful joy is how we are meant to live. It is our birthright; it is everyone’s birthright. As a result, we stop comparing and competing, we start promoting peace in all that we think, say, and do and life feels like we are on easy speed. We are at peace with our pleasure.
My experience of Ahimsa:
Personally the one thing that pulls me out of balance the most easily is over-working or simply over-doing. This inspires fear that I am powerless. As long as I make time to stay balanced by getting enough sleep, meditating daily, practicing yoga, going for walks, drawing, and relaxing then I live my Ahimsa. I’ve come to realize that the antidote is making sure to leave enough open space and free time to equally give my mind, body, and spirit time to rest before they get tired.
Just like anything else the benefits of applying Ahimsa can only be achieved if you actually practice them. Today, before you head out the door to face the day, pick two categories and really commit to creating a new pathway of lovingkindness, compassion, safety, empathy and peace.
Love yourself, love your day, love your life!
Editor’s note: This is another amazing guest post by Daily Cup of Yoga contributor Silvia Mordini, E-RYT, retreat leader, happiness coach, and yogipreneur. Enthusiasm to love your life is contagious around Silvia. Her expert passion connects people to their own joyful potential. Silvia lives her happiness in such a big way that you can’t help but leave her classes, workshops, trainings and retreats spiritually uplifted! Born in Ecuador, raised traveling around the globe, she is an enthusiastic citizen of the world and spiritual adventurer. She has over 10,000 hours and 15 years of teaching experience, owned a yoga studio for 9 years and after being run over by a car used yoga to recover physically and emotionally. Silvia leads Alchemy Tours Yoga Retreats and Alchemy of Yoga RYT200 Yoga Teacher Training.
Silvia can be reached on the Web at http://www.alchemytours.com ; or http://www.silviamordini.com, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @alchemytours, @inspiredyogagal; Facebook: Silvia Mordini; YouTube: lovingyourday; Pinterest: Silvia Mordini; Intagram: alchemytours.
Photo credit: Manduka Yoga on Instagram