Ahimsa translates as nonviolence. For me this simple translation can evoke some negativity. In yoga Ahimsa is more than the absence of violence, it is the active state of forgiveness, acceptance and gives us the openness to love.
Ahimsa is one of 5 Yamas – the moral and ethical guidelines that some yogis strive to live by. Ahimsa reminds us to be gentle with ourselves as we would be with others, speak kindly to ourselves and offer forgiveness. Holding grudges is not good for anyone, in particular ones against yourself!
On the mat
Physically in your yoga practice, ahimsa means listening to your body and not pushing beyond what it feels capable of doing at that point in time. Modifying when you need too, not when the person next to you does! This doesn't mean we have to limit ourselves, ahimsa is all about finding that balance. Creating your version of mindful courageousness.
Practicing ahimsa can be a way of developing honesty with yourself and your yoga practice at the same time. Avoid allowing your ego to lead your practice, instead allow intuition to take over, moving into what feels amazing for your body and explore that beautiful mindful connection to your breathe.
Off the mat
There are many different ways we can interpret ahimsa and bring these values into practice in our lives. Maybe its trapping a spider in a glass and letting it go outside, rather than squishing it. Or swapping your gossip session with a friend for stories of how someone has inspired you.
Adapting the mindset of ahimsa can be tricky and will take practice. Perhaps take a little part of each day to sit and observe your thoughts, pulling yourself up if they gravitate towards harmful and bringing them back to a place of love for yourself and for others.
However you decide to practice ahimsa, it will have positive effects on you and those around you. Creating a gentler, kinder world - albeit with more spiders!