Ahimsa

Have you ever noticed yourself “kicking” yourself for saying or doing something?  If you’re like most people, phrases like “That was really stupid!” or “I am such an idiot!” make an appearance at times, in your steady streaming mind chatter.

Ahimsa is the yoga practice of non-violence, or non-harming. In the yoga sutras, it is located way toward the top of the list of instructions for living your best life, which means it’s super important. When I first learned about this principle, it seemed obvious, and easy to accept: ‘Well, of course, I’m not going to go around hitting people.’ But I was surprised to learn the deeper practice of non-harming. My teacher Sharon Gannon taught us that all of our karma begins in not with our actions, but in our thoughts, and so too does the practice of Ahimsa.

 

Right off the bat, this means that you have to bring into harmony, what you think about people, and yourself, with how you would act. This makes yourself and your actions genuine through and through. Meaning, that person who bothers you in your life so much, who you “deal” with, but secretly harbor anger or irritation toward for, and at times wish they would fall in a pothole? Yeah, that person, well, to practice yoga, you actually have to go into your mind and remove your negative thinking toward them- exetending them either compassion (Karuna), or at the very least indifference (Upeksa).  

This means you have to practice ahimsa for yourself too. So no more beating yourself up for putting your foot in your mouth, or not getting that thing done on your list. The sutras tell us, find another way to inspire yourself, or take right action. The negative vibes in the form of thoughts, though they may never  be seen or heard by others, are not cool in yoga. Yoga teaches us to instead see everything as an opportunity for growth and learning. So if you said something you really wish you hadn’t? Clean it up and set your course for next time, but don’t waste your energy banging an imaginary mallot on your head, wishing you were born more perfectly, and never made mistakes. Practice ahimsa toward yourself and others, and you will start to see the new perspective of yoga.

 

Ella Luckett