Yoga for Happy Living – Ahimsa
One of our favourite things on the Santosha Level 1 Yoga Teacher Trainings is seeing our yogis minds blown by the amazingness of yoga philosophy! As promised on the Happy Living Post, it is now time to explore the concepts in Yoga Philosophy on an individual basis.
So let’s start at the top, with our first Yama… Ahimsa.
Ahimsa is the Sanskrit term for “non-violence” or “non-harming”; or, as it is often nicely put, kindness to all living beings. It is gentleness in action, thought and speech.
At its most simple, this obviously means not murdering or harming other people or animals (which if you wish you can take as far as vegetarianism or veganism) but it also can be followed in a far more subtle and complex way at the level of our own thoughts and words towards others – and ourselves.
Yamas and Niyamas do not just cover our actions, but our thoughts and speech, and Ahimsa is a perfect place to start examining this more fully.
It may be easy to say we do not physically harm or injure others but can that also be as easily said of our words and thoughts?
Do we sometimes snap or speak impatiently towards others, or lash out and say cruel things when we are feeling hurt?
And, probably even more commonly, are we in the habit of speaking cruelly and viciously to ourselves?
A good way to practice Ahimsa is to first practice it as often as possible on ourselves… where it may be a fairly big revolution if we are used to continuously berating ourselves for not being “good enough”, or comparing ourselves unfavourably to others.
We can be our own worse critic – some thoughts we have towards ourselves can be crueler than anything we would ever imagine saying out loud towards others – and we are also in the habit of constantly judging our own internals against others externals. Meaning we look to what others project into the world, and compare ourselves to that false image, not knowing what truly may be going on in that person’s life and mind.
No wonder we come up short!
This comparison does us no favours, rather we need to look inside our own life and personality and see what is positive and worth admiring there.
By using Ahimsa we can begin to undo the damage that this kind of thinking can do, and emerge happier, more content in ourselves and more at peace. And naturally once we are in this state it will be almost unavoidable to let this kindness spill over to others.
So start by just observing:
– how do you speak to yourself?
– do you call yourself “stupid” or other insulting words?
– do you berate yourself for not living up to where you think you should be.
If you do – STOP!
– responding to that thought with kindness (and not by telling yourself off for telling yourself off – then we’re right back where we started from!)
– accept where you are and acknowledge that you are trying your best.
Start “speaking back” to that voice, replacing that harsh, judgemental tone with something kinder. If someone you loved made a minor mistake would you yell at them and call them names, or would you tell them “honey, it’s no big deal, don’t worry about it”?
Start to love yourself and tell yourself the same thing! You deserve it 🙂
Even if there is something you wish to change about yourself, acting with cruelty towards yourself isn’t going to help.
For example if your were wanting to lose some weight, calling yourself names and thinking negatively about how you have failed by not having lost it by the timeframe you wanted, is neither kind NOR effective.
Don’t wait till you are “perfect” until you feel you deserve your own kindness.
Use this same practice of observation to practice Ahimsa towards others.
Witness how you speak to others, and the effects of your words upon them. Could you replace them with a kinder, less hurtful way of communicating?
Same with your thoughts – if you feel yourself becoming frustrated or thinking less than lovely thoughts about someone in your head, remind yourself they are just another person who is trying to get by in this world. 99.9% of the time they have no intent of annoying you.
By catching hurtful thoughts and turning them to into kindness you can change the levels of happiness and mental calmness you feel in a pretty phenomenal way.
So if this resonates with you, start this practice of observation, acceptance and kindness towards yourself and others, and see what happens. You might just be surprised!
If you want a deeper dive into the ocean of yoga wisdom our Level 1 Yoga Teacher Training course might be just the place for you…
Our Yoga Teacher Training students get the benefit of a dedicated yoga philosophy teacher, bringing these concepts to life and exploring how they can be applied to benefit both you, and your yoga students.
Ready to start your extraordinary Yoga adventure in paradise? Visit our Level 1 RYT-200 Yoga Teacher training page and start the first step on your new path today!