Ahimsa is a sanskrit term that means non-violence or not causing pain. This term is one of the ethical practices that someone on the path of yoga begins to practice even before the asanas (postures). Ahimsa refers not only to not harming of yourself and others physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Even your thoughts and words can cause pain.
Practicing the intention of non-harming can be extremely helpful in creating a healthier mental and emotional outlook. Once we recognize the thoughts that are painful to us we are able to reduce the amount of them. As we begin to learn non-harming for ourselves we can then translate that to how we interact with others.
The softening of our thoughts allows for a softening in our hearts. We are able to become compassionate, and open ourselves to love. An ease-fulness flows from our hearts and out into the world. Freedom from harm comes when we being to set clear intentions of not causing pain.
The Upanishads is an ancient sacred text. Within this text there is a passage that I feel helps to show why the practice of non-violence is important.
“Watch your thoughts: They become your words.
Watch your words: They become your actions.
Watch your actions: They become your habits.
Watch your habits: They become your character.
Watch your character: It becomes your destiny.“
So take a moment to to become aware of your thoughts, notice what thoughts are coming into your head at this moment? Are they harmful, judgmental or caring and compassionate? Can you see how your thoughts become your words, then become your actions, habits, character, and ultimately your destiny?
The practice of ahimsa is just that, a daily practice of being very present to your thoughts and actions. One small step to take is on your yoga mat. Become aware of when you are judgmental or pushing yourself past your limit. How can you soften around the edges in your asana (postures), pranayama (breath work), and dhyana (meditation)?