Saturday Morning Sanskrit: Ahimsa

Saturday Morning Sanskrit is back with a plan. I’ve briefly mentioned some of the most important parts of yoga philosophy (like Om, Lokah Samastah and Savasana). I also touched on the first of the eight limbs of yoga on Earth Day. Lately I’ve been thinking about what it means to live following these guidelines. One of the best parts about yoga is that (in my humble opinion) it’s not a religion. You are free to believe in anything you choose while pondering the basics of yoga philosophy. This week I’ll start with the first branch of yoga, found at the start of this chart (I got the graphic from Pinterest, it was created by Alison Hinks):

Yama = self restraint = guideline for social behavior

The yamas can be decribed as ancient wisdom, rather than a strict list of rules and regulations. The first yama is Ahimsa~ non-violence. It means kindness and consideration. It’s the yogi word for the Golden Rule (click for an awesome blog post with simple tips for living by the Golden Rule). What exactly does it mean to live without harming anyone or anything?

I think it means pausing before taking action. And that’s one of the greatest gifts of a yoga practice: learning how to pause. It takes a moment to decide what the best choice is. It also means being kind to yourself. This article talks about self-love. If you’re generating negative thoughts about yourself (whether it’s your appearance, career or whatever else), how can you practice non-violence towards others? Ditto for aggressive exercise or forcing your body into a yoga pose it’s not quite ready for.

Ahimsa stems from an awareness of how thoughts and actions effect others; whether it’s buying cute clothes made from slave labor or supporting companies with questionable practices. It can be overwhelming in our fast-paced society to make compassionate decisions. That’s where the pause comes in. Ahimsa is taking each decision as it comes and starting with the intention of choosing the least harming option. Ahimsa doesn’t mean being a pushover. Parents know that it’s not always pleasant at first to do what’s right. A simple example involves putting the kids to bed. They may whine and complain, but in the end it’s better for all involved when the kids get sleep and the parents get down-time. The same goes for exercise, meditation and cutting out fast food or gossip. Each non-violent choice elevates us, making it easier and easier until it becomes the norm.

Click on any of these for further reading:

Ahimsa by Sharon Gannon

Be Kind to Yourself in Finances

Thinking about others

What does Ahimsa/non-harming mean to you? How do you practice it in your everyday life? Feel free to share any thoughts or links.

I choose not to eat eggs anymore. It’s not really a health issue, but I can’t enjoy them with a clear conscious. This letter really affected me.



Filed under Yoga

12 responses to “Saturday Morning Sanskrit: Ahimsa

  1. I’ve been hoping that you’d write a post about Ahimsa ever since I started reading your Saturday Morning Sanskrit series! 🙂 It’s a word that really resonates with me, and I think it encompasses my philosophy and actions far better than simply labelling myself as ‘vegan’, so much so that I’m planning to get a tattoo of the Sanskrit. I really enjoyed your exploration into the wider meaning of the term, and what it truly means to practise non-violence. Thank you for the mention of my post about chick culling, too!

  2. I also wanted to say that I admire you for your decision about eating eggs. It’s a far more significant step on the path to a cruelty-free lifestyle than many people realise, and I’m really touched that my post helped you to make such a choice,

    • Although I do believe humans could gather eggs on an organic farm in a non-harming way, it still doesn’t answer the question of what do they do with all the boy chicks? And maybe a long time ago things were done differently, so it wasn’t really all that bad but farming has changed. Your letter made me realize I don’t want to contribute to that. I still slip up once and a while and eat a dessert made by a “regular” restaraunt, but I’ll never look at a plate of scrambled eggs the same way. And although this comment is getting pretty long…I have to say that I don’t miss eggs. I think I ate them because I “needed” the protein. Scrambled tofu is just as tasty!

      • I previously thought that male chicks were reared for meat, which, although far from ideal, meant that they were at least being bred for a purpose, rather than just being born to die. It took me a long time to realise the extent of the cruelty involved in egg farming! I agree that it can’t always have been this way- I find it hard to believe that, in a pre-factory farming society, any farmer would have so willingly given up so much potential profit! It’s such a warped and cruel practice. Scrambled tofu is amazing, definitely a worthy replacement for eggs!

      • I thought the same thing, which didn’t make it “ok” but I could live with it. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has some amazing podcasts where she talks about eggs. I plan to post about it soon (I couldn’t figure out how to link here in the comments section).

      • I’ll look forward to it! It’s an area I’m really keen to learn more about, there isn’t that much information available and after my rude awakening I really want to know everything I can about the issue.

  3. Pingback: My Crush on Colleen | veggievinyasa

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