What is Ahimsa? The Yama of Non-violence

October 25th, 2010

Ahimsa – To avoid all forms of violence or injury to self and others. Compassion, understanding, patience, self love and worthiness. Violence and non-violence begin with thoughts, thoughts become words and words become actions.

How to practice non-violence on the mat:

“Always from the child’s hand the sword should be removed.” ~ St. Francis of Assisi

Watch as sensation arises in your asana practice. Arrive in a pose and when you begin to ‘feel’ it, notice what thoughts are triggered by the sensations. Thoughts become words so on the mat, hear your inner dialogue/mental chatter.

Is the dialogue critical, judgmental, angry, frustrated, disturbing? Know that words become actions. If our mental chatter is anything but compassionate and loving or even neutral then we are starting a chain reaction of self violence. From negative inner dialogue what actions follow? Do we grit our teeth through the pose? Do we apply force, cause ourselves pain or injury, fall down, walk out of Yoga in a huff, quit practicing Yoga altogether because we believe we are not good enough?

Take the sword from the child’s hand

To cultivate non-violence, when we feel sensations arise in a posture, curiously observe what thoughts and dialogue are triggered by the sensation. At even the hint of negative inner speak, breathe into your pose. If you are experiencing pain that is sharp sudden, shooting, cracking, takes your breath away – hear this as violence to your body and stop what you are doing. If you experience sensation that arises gradually to any level of intensity – accept it exactly as it is for whatever it is. Yogic breathing can be enough to clear away the negative speak, to take the sword out of the little minds hand!

It is not enough to take the sword from the child’s hand. Give him a flower or a paint brush instead!

Ahimsa is not simply refraining from violence. It is to practice: compassion, understanding, patience, self love and worthiness.
To find a lasting practice of ahimsa it is not enough to stop negative inner dialogue. We must replace it with compassion, self love and understanding. On the mat, arrive in a pose, experience the rise of sensation. Ease off action when intensity is peaking without crossing into pain. Breathe life, love and understanding into the pose. Accept what your body is presenting in that given moment exactly as it is. Celebrate what you feel be it power, strength, openness, heat, determination, patience – whatever you are feeling. This is the place where edges can dissolve and our practice evolves in ways we may have never anticipated. Even more delightful is learning that challenge can be joyful and even the hardest poses can include a sense of ease.

Here is a prayer by Swamiji that is relevant.

Just Be What You Are

Drop all impatience
Drop all frustrations;
Just be what you are
Just be what you are.

There is no need for projection
There is no need to create impression;
Just be what you are
Just be what you are.

Stop this fighting with yourself
Stop this struggle with yourself;
Stop being sad with yourself
Stop further hurting yourself;
Just be what you are
Just be what you are.

You do not have to become something
You do not have to achieve something;
Just be what you are
Just be what you are.

Accept yourself as you are
Love yourself as you are;
Just be what you are
Just be what you are.

~ Swamiji

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