One of the first Yamas, Ahimsa translates to non-violence, taken literally you may wonder surely this is just human nature, to not be violent to each other. The real meaning of non-violence is to be hones, compassionate and to treacly love.
How can we manifest this in daily life?
Most of us can relate preform on a non violent act to ourselves everyday, and this is often when our thoughts contain negative responses, this can show as disappointment, resentment, guilt or when we feel shame, this is creating violence against ourselves. A prime example is expecting too much of yourself which can lead to disappointment. We can also inflict violence on others daily, although not physical and done in more subtle ways, this is simple an outwards expression of the daily battles we are fighting.
The easiest way to understand ahimsa is being mindful of our thoughts, the thoughts themselves may not cause any physical harm however the action of holding onto these and letting them repeat can turn into actions or word of violence. To get out of the cycle, we can practice observing these thoughts with no reaction. What you will notice is your awareness will shift and these thoughts will surpass. Our thoughts affect our general wellbeing, and can lead to use causing physical pain and sickness. Negative thinking sends out messages to the body, triggering the fight of flight response, thus releasing the stress hormone. The stress hormone lowers the immune system making you more likely to experience pain. Some examples of negative feelings manifest in jealously, anger and judgement. Quite the opposite happens when we think lovingly, when we do this release dopamine, the chemical which makes you feel good and relax, this strengthens the immune system.
How can I practice Ahimsa?
If making yoga your lifestyle, Ahimsa can guide your daily actions with yourself and others. It can translate to all aspects of our lives, primarily talking from a physical point of view it can mean not pushing our bodies to the point of pain to impress the ego. Accepting our bodies own abilities and acknowledging how the body is in that present moment. This does not mean that you cannot still challenge yourself, we all need this to grow, but sometimes we need to acknowledge that pushing the boundaries can cause physical harm to the body. For example on the mat, we may be able to hold a pose for a length of time, while doing so we may be in pain just to appease the ego.
Alongside this we should also not to try hold feelings of jealousy against yourself or to others. By acting on both of these we can bring Ahimsa into our lives to improve our own well being as well as others around us, leading us to a path of peaceful living.
Acceptance is the key to releasing negative thoughts.