Practicing Ahimsa (Non-Violence) in Your Daily Life

Ahimsa, the Sanskrit word that translates to English as 'non-violence,' forms the foundation of all yoga practice and all other yoga attitudes.

The root word of ahimsa is 'himsa,' which translates into English as the word 'violence' or 'harm.' 'The 'A' in ahimsa denotes the absence of harm, the absence of violence.

The relationships between the many branches, limbs, practices and attitudes of yoga are very complex, and ahimsa pulses powerfully through all of them.

To cultivate ahimsa is to mindfully and purposefully promote peace and support non-violence throughout your day. Cultivating ahimsa benefits everyone in your environment; whether you are at home, at work, at school or at play.

Ahimsa provides the foundation for all yoga practice.

Nonviolence in practice includes actions, words and thoughts. Ahimsa is a practice of nonviolence towards the self and nonviolent attitude and actions towards others. When we are conscious and focused on ahimsa, we are kind in our thinking about our own selves, and the actions we show towards ourselves and others are healing, non-violent actions.

Our best negotiators in business and politics are ahimsa experts. Beyond posturing in yoga, beyond physical exercise, we can cultivate ahimsa as a strategy to build peace and create joy.

Famous Meditations on Ahimsa by Peaceful Leaders

The Dalai Lama: "Nonviolence is not merely the absence of violence. It involves a sense of compassion and caring. I strongly believe that we must promote such a concept of nonviolence at the level of the family as well as at the national and international levels."
Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals."
Mahatma Gandhi: "Ahimsa is the highest duty. Even if we cannot practice it in full, we must try to understand its spirit and refrain as far as is humanly possible from violence."

Exercises for Cultivating Ahimsa Throughout Your Day

As you focus on ahimsa and you consciously bring actions into your daily routine that create ahimsa, your awareness grows and the activities you choose to cultivate ahimsa become more natural, more personal to you and more peaceful. The exercises listed below are suggestions that might assist you in developing your own personal plan to increase ahimsa and bring more joy into your day.

Ahimsa at Home

  1. Anger can be triggered when morning or evening routines do not go as planned. By controlling your anger and remaining calm in your words and actions when routines are disrupted, you invite ahimsa to grow in your home and family.
  2. Mealtime should be calm and comfortable at home. Rushing through meals, eating standing up or ignoring family and friends during meal time is not ahimsa.

Ahimsa at School

  1. Too often, we become disappointed in ourselves when we do not achieve the grade or the mark that we expected on evaluations. Ahimsa means letting that academic disappointment go and focusing on lessons learned.
  2. Set goals for school that are reasonable for you.
  3. Look for opportunities to create team learning experiences in which you and other students support one another to achieve common goals.

Ahimsa at Work

  1. Stay calm during meetings and negotiations, never losing your temper even when others appear to be unreasonable.
  2. Pay careful attention to your posture if you work at a desk and make certain that your workspace is arranged comfortably.
  3. Make health and safety a priority and take an active forward-looking attitude that avoids workplace injury for yourself and others.

Ahimsa at Play

  1. If sports, physical exercise, or the gym is your type of play, bring the ahimsa attitude into your physical exercise just as you would during physical yoga exercise. Stay hydrated and do not over-extend yourself. Breathe comfortably throughout your exercise routine.
  2. If your game is competitive, take joy in that competition. Avoid an attitude of combativeness and know that all players are winners.