“Love means non-hurting, non- harming, non-injuring, and non-killing, not only through actions, but through speech and thoughts.” Swami Rama
In the most traditional sense, ahimsa refers to maintaining a vegetarian diet. The premise of which being non-killing and non- harming of another living creature to sustain one’s self.
Personally, I don’t believe in blanket statements, such as, all people should be vegetarian. If that diet works for you to maintain health then yes, it is a beautiful option. However, for many people, this is not the case.
There is a way to practice ahimsa even for the carnivores out there. The first step is to make mindful decisions when grocery shopping. You can also sing your favorite mantra while cooking to infuse the food being prepared with all of potency of that mantra. Always pray, and be thankful for the animals that have died so we can live. You could even do a little reiki over your meal before you eat.
“Be kind, everyone is fighting a hard battle.” Anonymous
Ahimsa also refers to right action and right speech. Obviously, treat people kindly with respect. On another level, and perhaps the most important level, treat yourself with kindness and respect. The way we treat and interact with other people is a reflection of how we treat ourselves.
What does this look like off the mat? Ahimsa off the mat looks a lot like making time to care of yourself, through yoga, journaling, running, painting, dancing, or even napping, whatever fills your cup. Ahimsa also shows up in life as healthy boundaries, forgiveness, acceptance, and compassion
Ahimsa on the mat reflects ahimsa off the mat, showing up as acceptance and non-judgement in your practice. This means not comparing in class, and letting your practice be your own, guided by your breath and inner knowing. This also means not pushing or practicing in an overly aggressive way. Yoga is an equal balance of action and surrender. Listen to your body, dull and achy is acceptable, sharp and acute pain is never necessary. If the breath becomes labored, static, or not easily accessible, that is valuable information to you, from you, somewhere there is a disconnect. Take a break, slow down, or rest in child’s pose. Overtime, ahimsa will guide you back to trusting yourself, and the wisdom that exists within your body and breath.
Yoga is ultimately the practice of breath and asana combined to create shifts that allow us to see beyond our limitations and illusions, revealing our true nature, limitless joy, love, steadiness and ease. By embodying ahimsa, we allow this process to be fueled by love and compassion. When we bring these qualities to ourselves first, they begin to ripple out into all areas of our lives, improving the quality of not only our personal life, but also every person we come into contact with. Everyone benefits from the practice of ahimsa.