1st Yama: Ahimsa explained

I'd love to make you more curious about what YOGA has to offer, more then your weekly yogaclass, on and off the mat. The ancient practice of yoga can RELATE TO and HELP YOU in your day-to-day life. The content of this blog is meant to inspire you and to inform you on concepts from the yoga. In some blogs I'm  writing from my personal experience, others are compiled from existing texts.

By Barbara Klarenbeek


One of the branches of the yogic philosophy, the yamas, are five moral, ethical and societal guidelines to practice a conscious and honest life. These guidelines can be a great practice for something you want to work on in your life. The first Yama is called Ahimsa, and is translated as non-violence or non-harming. When considering non-harming towards others, we may think: ‘well I don’t go around punching people in the street so, yeah I got that one down.’ Of course it goes much deeper than that.

First, on a bigger scale, we can practice Ahimsa towards the earth by choosing a more environmentally responsible, plant-based diet and buying non-toxic products to reduce our carbon footprint. But it also extends to our physical and emotional well-being. For example, in our relationships, how often do we say or do something that causes harm to a loved one, offering hurtful criticism or judgement? 

And ofcourse with ourselves, how are you talking to yourself? Is it in a loving, compassionate way? Or is it in a harmful way? How often do we berate our intentions, letting ourselves believe we are not good enough, fit enough, thin enough, or successful enough?

These thoughts may seem harmless, but they can have a very powerful impact. We start to believe what we tell ourselves. This is a challenge that often comes up on the mat. You may find yourself constantly pushing yourself to work harder, to stretch further, to go beyond your edge in a constant pursuit of perfection and progress. This kind of striving is a form of aggression and violence towards oneself.

If you observe this tendency in yourself, work toward awareness rather than aggression. When you feel the urge to mindlessly push past your boundaries, consciously pull back and tune in to what’s going on in the moment. When you feel compelled to do something your body’s fighting against, see if you can stay in that space just before you reach your edge rather than pushing beyond it.

This doesn’t mean you should be complacent or lackadaisical; on the contrary, you must be constantly aware and attuned to where your edge is in each moment. Your edge is that place where you move away from your comfort zone and challenge yourself, but can still maintain your alignment, your skill, and a calm, steady breath.

Mindfulness of one’s edge is key to practicing Ahimsa ON the mat and OFF the mat.


Practice compassion

Practicing compassion towards others helps us to see through the eyes of others, to understand their point of view and the reasoning for their actions. It translates to 'non-violence', so yogis may try to lessen suffering and harm to the rest of the world.

Practicing compassion with yourself is a perfect place to start building positive self talk. Accept where you are today, and that it may be different than yesterday. Allow yourself to play, to fall, to make mistakes.  The truth is, none of us have it all figured out, so allow yourself to be forgiving. It’s important to look after yourself, mentally, physically, emotionally.

Next time you are on the mat, see if you can start to work your personal interpretation of Ahimsa into your practice. Who knows, it may be the start of something wonderful.


Bron: www.yogitimes.com/ www.yogauonline.com/ www.wanderlust.com