Ahimsa and the Idea of Do No Harm
Ahimsa; the beautiful concept of doing no harm. It encourages you to be kind, gentle, compassionate, and peaceful to all things.
‘Ahimsa’ is the first of the five ‘yamas’ of ashtanga yoga, which are ethical, moral and societal guidelines for yogis; the rules by which to live, essentially. Ahimsa is known as ‘non-violence’, but really, the idea of ahimsa is far deeper than simply not hurting people or animals – it is about treating everything with honest compassion and true love, approaching everyone with gentleness and empathy, judging no one, being kind to all.
To give you a quick lesson in ahimsa – it’s basically love. To manifest it inside yourself, you must let go of negative emotions like resentment, hate, guilt or disappointment, because these emotions subtly create violence. If you can’t set yourself free of these emotions, forgive the person who hurt you, or even forgive yourself for something you did, then it’s essentially an act of violence; and there is no room for love in violence, as violence pushes it aside.
Yoga nurtures and encourages the idea of ahimsa because it allows you to get in touch with ahimsa during your practice. It allows you to confront your inner doubts and worries with neutrality and compassion. All those fears of a certain posture? Practice ahimsa, and be calm. All that judgment at yourself because you can’t attain a pose? Practice ahimsa, and be gentle on yourself. All that self-loathing because your body doesn’t look or act the way you want it to? Practice ahimsa, and love yourself. Once you love yourself, you will be much freer to spread the love to others and to ‘do no harm’.
Once a child becomes acquainted with the idea of ahimsa through the practice of yoga, they can begin to show ahimsa toward a number of things in their life.
Here’s a list of how a child (or you!) can adopt ahimsa in their everyday life:
- Be kind to your family and friends
- Be kind to your pets
- Give compliments
- Try to make someone smile
- Say what you are grateful for, and express what makes you happy
- Tell someone you love them
- Embrace a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, as this is being kind to all animals
- Plant a tree, ride your bike, walk, recycle, as this is being kind to the environment
- Breathe deep, calming, steady breaths and let go of the negative feelings
- Focus on the happy thoughts – give them life!
Everyone holds pain inside themselves, but you can help to overcome it in a positive way with ahimsa. By observing and not acting on our feelings of pain and negativity, pain and violence will move out of our lives, and understanding and compassion will take its place. Ahimsa is accepting that we are perfectly imperfect, and being content within ourselves.