If you are practicing yoga regularly, it’s likely you’ve heard of Patanjali, the ancient sage credited with writing the Yoga Sutras almost 2000 years ago. The Sutras are a guide to being a good yogi. There are 108 Sutras,(each represented by one bead on the malas you might see people in the yoga community wearing around their necks).
In the Sutras, Patanjali describes Eight Limbs of yoga, the first being the Yamas, a series of restraints. What not to do, if you are a yogi. Ahimsa is the first Yama, and it means, do no harm.
As yoga students, we are asked to choose the action that creates the least amount of harm in all situations. In a yoga class, this might mean, taking child’s pose and not pushing your body to the point of injury. It might mean, nixing the negative self-talk that goes through your head.
Ahimsa, might mean staying present, using proper form, so that we don’t injure ourselves, or others. It might mean not infringing on another’s experience during practice, by flinging sweat onto them, or blowing your breath into their face, or forgetting your deodorant!
Off the mat, a yogi can practice Ahimsa by being kind, even when we need to say something difficult. We can choose our words carefully, and hold our tongue until we calm down if we are upset.
Ahimsa means avoiding gossip, and avoiding complaining. It means eating healthy food. It means not pouring gasoline on the fire by contributing to road rage, even when someone else starts it.
Ahimsa means being aware of our energy, before we interact with others, and as we interact with others. In every moment we have the opportunity to ask ourselves, am I being helpful or harmful? Am I practicing Ahimsa?