This month I am focusing on ahimsa in my practice. Ahimsa is usually translated as non-violence or non-harm. It is the first ethical guideline (yama) of the first limb of the eightfold yoga path. Yoga means nothing if it doesn’t create peace for you and others in the world. Nischala Joy Devi, in The Secret Power of Yoga translates Sutra 2:35 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as follows:
“Embracing reverence and love for all (Ahimsa) we experience oneness”. She describes how as babies we see the world through pure hearts and open eyes. We live the purity of ahimsa experiencing oneness with everyone and everything.
Ahimsa teaches us to consider the impact of our words, our actions, our intentions and our thoughts through a lens of self-awareness, reflection and compassion. You could look at ahimsa as ensuring that what we do and how we do it is done in harmony rather than harm.
In your asana practice the principle of ahimsa guides us to let go of thinking negatively about our bodies and to accept ourselves, exactly as we are, in this moment, showing ourselves compassion and acknowledging all the things that our body can do rather than focusing on what we can’t. This doesn’t mean that we can’t challenge ourselves (after all if we don’t challenge ourselves we don’t grow) but what it does mean is that we don’t push past the edge and potentially cause ourselves harm. We listen to our bodies and recognise and respect our boundaries.
Off the mat we can observe that inner voice and see can we encourage it to be kinder and more compassionate. We also want to bring the practice into the wider world, showing kindness and compassion to others and to the environment in which we live.
The practice of Ahimsa is a work in progress. A strong intention, compassion, empathy and patience will help it to happen. Know that every kind gesture that you make not only strengthens yourself but will also create an impact in the world.
Focus Pose – Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II ).
As you stand in the pose bring your warrior energy to the virtues of non-violence. Become a warrior for peace and kindness to yourself and others around you.
Mantra – Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
Meditation – Loving kindness – Metta Prayer
Ways to bring ahimsa into your month:
Week One – Focus on being kind to yourself, on quieting your inner negative voice or self judgement. Try to practice accepting yourself, exactly as you are, in this moment.
Week Two – Set an intention every morning to bring kindness to those around you – practice empathy and compassion in your dealings with the other people in your life. Consider performing random acts of kindness.
Week Three – Consider what you can do to bring less violence into the world around you – remembering to use reusable bags and cups or taking less journeys in the car, planting trees or whatever it is that you can do bring kindness back into the environment.
Week Four – Review how your ahimsa practice has blossomed over the month. Consider how you can continue to grow it going forward.
Wishing you a happy, peaceful month.