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Ahimsa--The Yoga Principle of Non-Harming

Beth Bradford

Nov 4, 2022

The yoga principle of ahimsa is all about non-harming. It's about being kind and compassionate to yourself and others, and it's a core part of the yoga philosophy. But what does it really mean? 

What Is Ahimsa?

Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word that means "non-harming." In the yoga tradition, it's considered one of the most important principles to follow.

Ahimsa is all about mindfulness and being conscious of your words and actions. It's about not harming yourself, other people, or animals. When you live with ahimsa in mind, you're more likely to make choices that are kind and compassionate.

This is a principle that can be applied to your yoga practice, as well as your everyday life. It's something to keep in mind when you're faced with challenging situations. Yoga is all about finding balance, and ahimsa is one way to help you do that.

The Origins of Ahimsa

Ahimsa is one of the key principles of yoga, and it's all about non-violence. But where did this principle come from?

The word "ahimsa" is derived from the Sanskrit root "himsa," which means "to injure or kill." So ahimsa is really about not harming anyone, physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It's about choosing compassion over violence.

There's a famous story about ahimsa that goes back to the time of the Buddha. One day, a group of monks came to the Buddha and asked him how they could protect themselves from harm. The Buddha replied by telling them to practice ahimsa. He said that by not retaliating when someone harms them, they would be immune to harm.

Why Is Ahimsa Important?

Ahimsa is one of the yamas, which are the ethical principles of yoga. It's often translated as "non-violence," but it's more than that. It's about not harming ourselves or others, on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level.

When we live by the principle of ahimsa, we create a more peaceful world within and without. We learn to be more tolerant and accepting of others, and we begin to see the interconnectedness of all life.

It's not always easy to follow the principle of ahimsa, but it's worth it. When we make the effort to live in harmony with others, we create a ripple effect that can change the world.

How Can I Practice Ahimsa in My Life?

Ahimsa isn't just about not hurting people or animals. It's also about not being harmful to the environment.

So how can you practice ahimsa in your life? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Be mindful of your words. Avoid saying things that might hurt someone's feelings.

2. Think before you act. Before you do anything, ask yourself if it will cause harm in some way.

3. Be charitable. Give something of yourself—time, money, or energy—without expecting anything in return.

4. Be compassionate. Show kindness and understanding to everyone, even those who are difficult to love.

What Are Some Challenges of Practicing Ahimsa?

Putting others first and avoiding harm doesn't come easy, especially when we're so wrapped up in our own lives. But the challenges of practicing ahimsa are worth it, because they force us to slow down, take a step back, and look at the big picture.

When we're faced with a difficult situation, we have to ask ourselves, "Is this going to cause harm?" If the answer is yes, then we need to find a different way to approach the problem. It's not always easy, but with practice, we can start to see the world through a more compassionate lens.


Ahimsa is one of the yamas, or ethical guidelines, in yoga. It is the practice of non-violence in all ways. This includes verbal, mental, emotional, and physical non-violence. 

Living a life based on ahimsa can be difficult, but it's a worthy goal. When we can refrain from harming others, we open ourselves up to more compassion and peace.

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