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The True Meaning of Ahimsa

Yoga teaches us so much more than just gravity-defying poses and meditation, and it promotes the overall health of not just our physical body, but mental and spiritual as well. 

Ahimsa falls into the mental and spiritual category, as one of the five yamas, or self-regulating behaviors and ethical guidelines for building character and improving our daily lives and relationships with others and with the world around us. Once we master its true meaning and learn how to apply it on a day-to-day basis, we’ll see a positive shift in our energy levels, our mood, and our overall mental state.

Eight-limbed System of Yoga

Yamas are just one part of the eight-limbed system of yoga taught to us by the Indian guru Patanjali in his famous collection of writings, Yoga Sutras, that are widely recognized as a “Guide to yoga” and Patanjali himself, being often named as the father of Modern yoga. 

Literally translated as “yoga threads” from sanskrit, Yoga sutras are thought to be guidelines for living a meaningful and more purposeful life. 

The eight-limbed system is comprised of:

  1. Yamas: self-regulating behaviors and sense of integrity
  2. Niyamas: spiritual observances and self- discipline
  3. Asana: physical yoga practice
  4. Pranayama: breath techniques and control
  5. Pratyahara: a path to introversion through withdrawal of sensory perception
  6. Dharana: concentration and focus, also known as the initial stage of meditation on a chosen subject
  7. Dhyana: meditation, uninterrupted flow of concentration without a specific focus
  8. Samadhi: advanced stage of meditation and a state of ecstasy, experience of Oneness with the divine

Each stage is meant to prepare us for the following one, with samadhi being the ultimate goal. So, let’s begin with step number one: Yamas and Ahimsa. 

The 5 Yamas

Each yama presents an important aspect of our behavior and teaches us how to see the world through a different lens. They are as follows:

  1. Ahimsa: representing nonviolence
  2. Satya: representing truthfulness
  3. Asteya: representing non stealing
  4. Brahmacharya: representing continence
  5. Aparigraha: representing non covetousness

They are thought to be the clear representation of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

Ahimsa - Nonviolence

What comes to your mind when you hear the word violence? And what comes to your mind when you hear its exact opposite, or nonviolence? Do you think about wars and terrorism, and then peace and stillness, or maybe a white dove?

A white dove flying in the sky. The dove is a near universal symbol of peace & nonviolence, echoed in the yogic yama of Ahisma.

If you do, you wouldn’t be wrong, but ahimsa represents every act of nonviolence you can muster throughout your daily life, and not just the one that stops a war. Practicing ahimsa at work, in traffic, in your relationships with others, as well as in your relationship with yourself means changing your thoughts and actions, and altering them to a more positive, nonviolent state, without causing any injury, physical or mental. 

Hurting someone or hurting yourself can have many different meanings, from physically slapping someone’s cheek and purposely wearing shoes that give you blisters to thinking you’re not good enough or talking behind someone’s back. 

Ahimsa-based practices include pausing before you act or think, empathizing with the situation at hand, and choosing to look forward and avoid unnecessary stress and negative emotions. 

By no means is learning how to apply ahimsa easy, but practicing it as often as you can and figuring out the ways to control and self-regulate your actions, and later thoughts, will make tapping into it seem more comfortable and familiar over time. 

Every person is different, and that’s why ahimsa will show up completely different to the person next to you. Don’t compare yourself with others and learn how to listen to your inner voice; it’s the only one telling you the real truth. 

Think of the one way you can implement ahimsa in your life today. Just one. You can start with something easy, like deciding to be more tolerant in traffic today even though you know you’re running late and you’ll hit the worst traffic jam. Or you can try not arguing with your mom even though she’s being completely unreasonable about a specific topic. 

Choose love and compassion instead. Accept the fact you’ll be stuck in traffic and use that time to be more proactive and listen to a podcast or call a friend. And meet your mom where she is, using empathy to help you understand her point of view, even if you don’t agree with it. 

There are tons of ways you can implement Ahimsa into your life, so start with one and slowly build up to more. The change will inevitably come. Sunia Yoga Ahimsa yoga leggings were inspired by and in support of this ancient yogic yama, an incredibly powerful, universal, and exceedingly important spiritual principle in today's world. We hope they inspire you too.  ~Namaste 🙏🕊️

P.S. Halle Berry chose to wear our Ahisma Leggings in her recent live Insta appearance for Women's Health Magazine 😍 check out the video below:

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