Yoga and ahimsa go hand-in-hand. Most people today are familiar with yoga, but few people are familiar with the term ahimsa, which literally means “the avoidance of violence.” Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism use the concept of ahimsa in religious practices. The practice of ahimsa means “nonviolence towards all living things including animals.” Ghandi was a strong believer in this principle. Practitioners of ahimsa learn to avoid verbal and physical violence except in the case of self-defense. Karma is also a part of ahimsa.
How are Yoga and Ahimsa Connected?
Ahimsa is a necessary component of Yoga and is one of the five Yamas and restraints. This code of conduct is the first of eight possible paths. Worshippers of Vishnu and Krishna understand and practice ahimsa.
Yoga helps people transcend and reach a higher self. Yoga calms people and helps them learn to act in a non-violent manner. Practicing yoga without ahimsa defeats the point of yoga. People must act in a non-violent manner if they practice yoga to receive full benefit of the exercise. The practice can lower stress levels and help people remain mentally and physically fit.
Yoga is the physically manifestation of ahimsa, which is a set of principles. Practicing yoga helps people learn to breath and control their emotions. People who learn to control their emotions will not harm people, animals or insects. Yoga helps in this capacity.
How Buddhism, Hindu and Jainism Interpret Ahimsa
Buddhist practitioners of ahimsa are the least strict. The religion does not require vegetarianism, but it does not condone killing of animals for the specific purpose of a person. Meat and fish may be eaten under these circumstances.
Hinduist practitioners of ahimsa are stricter and warn practitioners not to harm any living thing. Animal consumption is strongly condemned except for warriors or Kshatriyas. Hermits must be strictly non-violent. Hindu condones self-defense in the event of an attacker.
Modern Jainism practitioners practice ahimsa in the strictest manner. They demand that participants are strict vegans or lacto vegetarians. No animals can be killed for food in any circumstance. Jains will not harm an insect and will not go out at night to lower the risk of harm. Jains cannot eat honey, and they cannot use harsh words or violence.
Everyone chooses a different level of ahimsa to practice. Most often, it is based on a religious practice. But not everyone who practices ahimsa is a member of these faiths. Ahimsa has also been related to Jesus and biblical practices.
Why is It Important to Practice Ahimsa with Yoga?
Though many people who practice yoga do not study any of these religions, yoga participants must have an appreciation of the practice, or they will be disruptive to class. Verbal insults or strong language have no place in a yoga studio. Physical violence does not belong in the yoga.
Yoga and Ahimsa are Both Non-Violent Practices
Non-violence is a fundamental principle of yoga and ahimsa. When practitioners focus on non-violent practices, they will get the full benefit of yoga. Consider learning the principles of ahimsa before practicing yoga.
This post was provided by Marie Willis, a yoga instructor from Toronto. She recommends yoga and pilates teacher training from established and certified organisations like Feel Good Yoga & Pilates.