The Art of Ahimsa (Non Violence)

Ahimsa is the first of the yamas as set out in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It translates as ‘non violence’ and it is referring to more than the act of not being violent. Ahimsa teaches us that non violence has to start with ourselves. If we can find a softer way with ourselves on the yoga mats, through the way we work with our bodies, and we start observing our thought patterns, then it has the potential to spill off the yoga mat and into our lives.

We live in a society which encourages ‘perfection’ and high achieving. We learn to set high and often unachievable standards for ourselves physically, emotionally, financially, academically, professionally, personally. High standards are not necessarily the problem, but the thought patterns which they perpetuate if rooted in self judgement, self criticism, frustration, or shame for not reaching these standards. We may also fall into judgemental thinking and separation towards others, all under the illusion of self motivation and getting ahead.

The truth is self judgement causes inner turmoil and resistance to parts of ourselves, this causes separation making it difficult to find true self acceptance and to love all parts of ourselves. We also may find we create a mental separation from others. Instead if we work towards a softer narrative about ourselves, shifting towards greater self compassion and recognising that are doing the best we can under the circumstances we face, and seeing life as a learning process. We understand that we will make mistakes and not always achieve the standards we are conditioned to reach, either personally or on a societal level, and this is ok. We learn that constant achievements don’t necessarily bring us true happiness and contentment. This depends on what we are trying to achieve, and whether we find a sense of fulfilment within ourselves, or whether we are achieving to feed the ego, who will never be satisfied.

When we practice ahimsa we learn to shift our inner dialogue, and reflect on where our narratives, and beliefs which are less healthy are rooted. This is where the true healing and evolving of self lies. As we are more compassionate with ourselves, it is easier to be compassionate to others. We learn to connect to a deeper sense of ourselves, beyond our conditioning. We find the peace of who we are and realising that this moment is exactly as it should be, and we can love ourselves for exactly who we are in this moment.

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