Ahimsa is the first of the 5 yamas, or ethical practices in yoga. The yamas are one of yoga’s 8 limbs, various physical, mental, and spiritual elements that shape your practice. Meaning non-violence through thoughts, words, and actions, ahimsa is a guideline that helps us practice compassion instead of violence — in this case, violence refers to thoughts or actions that hurt yourself or others. 

12 Ways To Practice Ahimsa Everyday

If you are interested in practicing ahimsa on and off your yoga mat, try some of the following ways to put this yama into action.

Practicing Ahimsa On Your Mat

The yamas are moral practices you can bring onto your yoga mat and into your everyday life. If you would like to start practicing ahimsa on your mat, try some of the following methods.

1. Listen to Your Body. A great way to start practicing ahimsa on your mat is to listen to your body while you are moving through asanas. It can be easy to get caught up in trying to perfect poses or push your body to build strength, however that may not always be what your body needs. Practicing ahimsa by having compassion for your body and listening to what it needs during asana is a simple way to do this practice every day.

2. Keep Your Mind On Your Mat. Having compassion for your body while in asana practice is not just about being mindful of what poses serve your body, but also being mindful of how you see your body mentally. If you are prone to comparing yourself to others while on the mat, practice compassion for yourself by accepting where you are in your own practice.

3. Share Positivity In Your Practice. Ahimsa is not only about compassion for yourself, but also for those around you. Bringing this yama into your classes with the intention of sharing it with those around you is a great way to put this practice into action. This may be as simple as saying hello to those in your class or thanking your teacher at the end of class.

4. Use Ethically Sourced Yoga Products. Doing some background research about where your yoga accessories come from and how they are made can also help you practice ahimsa on your mat. This may mean choosing environmentally responsible companies, those that practice fair-trade labor, and those that implement other practices to be kind to the earth and its inhabitants.

Practicing Ahimsa Off Your Mat

While your yoga mat is a great place to start practicing ahimsa, there are many ways to live this yama off of your mat as well. Try some of the following everyday ways to practice ahimsa off your mat.

5. Clearly Define Violence. Not all acts of violence are big or obvious. While it may seem easy to avoid overtly violent actions in your life, practicing ahimsa is also about moving away from violence in small ways as well. Take some time to think about if there may be small ways to help the people in your life feel happier. This may mean avoiding judging those around you, trying to understand perspectives of those you disagree with, or making an effort to include the people in your community.

6. Think Positive Thoughts. A simple place to start practicing ahimsa is to maintain a positive mindset. This may start by simply being mindful of when you are thinking negative thoughts and redirecting your thought pattern. You may also want to try practicing some positive affirmations or love-inspiring mantras to set aside time to think positive thoughts.

7. Be Kind To Your Body. This method of practicing ahimsa applies on and off of your mat. Some ways to be kind to your body include exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and being mindful of what you are eating. Through these are simple, everyday practices, being mindful that your body is getting what it needs is a great way to show compassion for yourself.

8. Take A Minute For Mental Health. Many people practice compassion for themselves by fueling their bodies with healthy food and exercise. While this is crucial, it is equally as important to practice compassion for yourself by taking some time for your mental health. This may mean practicing some mindfulness meditation, or simply setting aside time in your calendar to do something you love such as hiking, cooking, or spending time with your favorite person.

9. Stop Comparing Yourself To Others. Avoiding comparison is another strategy that applies on and off your mat. Whether you have a habit of comparing yourself to your friends, coworkers, family members, or anyone else, be mindful of these harmful comparisons. Instead, consider showing compassion for yourself by trying some ways to stop comparing yourself to others and fostering your own self-esteem.

10. Strive For Improvement, Not Perfection. Letting go of the desire to push your limits may be difficult for some people. If this sounds like you, finding a balance between fostering the desire to improve without being too self-critical or harmful may be a good way to practice ahimsa. Instead of focusing on pushing yourself to be better than those around you, try focusing your energy on personal improvement rather than unattainable perfection.

11. Let Go. Practicing ahimsa is not only about the things we choose to have in our lives but also the things we choose not to have in our lives. Showing compassion for your physical and mental health may mean finding ways to step away from the things that bring you down or simply learning when to say no. This may mean something as small as letting go of time commitments you do not wish to have to something as large as moving away from a toxic or ambivalent relationship.

12. Practice Self-Love. A final way to bring ahimsa into your daily life is to put compassion into action by practicing self-love. Self-love is simply the practice of doing things that serve your mind and body to grow compassion and confidence in yourself. Consider putting this practice into action by making time for the things you love, setting aside alone time where you can think and clear your mind, or making a date to spend time with the people who you love most.

To continue exploring ways to practice the yamas on and off your mat, explore our guides to practicing satya and asteya!

Megan Herndon

Megan is a Seattle-based writer who covers health and wellness. She has worked in content marketing and journalism for a number of organizations including The Seattle Globalist, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and The Jakarta Globe. She has a BA in journalism from the University of Washington and is currently working on her second UW degree, a Master of Communication and Digital Media. Born and raised in Hawaii and currently embracing the Pacific Northwest lifestyle, Megan loves all things active and outdoors including hiking, camping, outrigger canoe paddling, and yoga.

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