Ahimsa: Being Good is Not Sufficient

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Ahimsa, non-harming, might be essentially the most talked about of the yamas, the ethical disciplines outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It’s the primary one on the checklist and, frankly, looks like a straightforward one to perform: don’t damage individuals. Easy sufficient, since most of us don’t get up every morning and “select violence.” If we’re moderately good to individuals round us, we are able to inform ourselves that we’ve got ahimsa down. However if you happen to look intently, there are nuances to ahimsa that reach past a easy translation of the phrase.

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For one factor, ahimsa includes greater than being good. Good is being agreeable and nice. Non-harming lives extra within the realm of kindness–a spirit of generosity, being thoughtful, or having compassion. Good is a smile emoji on the finish of a textual content. Kindness is taking somebody’s fingers and smiling into their eyes.

Are you able to be good and sort?

The 2 should not mutually unique; you may be good and type. However “not each motion coming from a spot of benevolence has a lovely impact,” in line with Kelly Shi, a philosophy scholar and former Hackworth Fellow and the Markkula Middle for Utilized Ethics at Santa Clara College. It might not really feel “good” to interrupt unhealthy information to a pal, for instance. However it may be an act of kindness that saves the individual from damage or hurt in the long run.

Good lives within the realm of obligations and etiquette, social norms and expectations. However politeness can conceal a mess of emotions which are something however good. And we are able to do good issues that don’t have anything to do with what’s in our hearts. For ahimsa–non harming–to be true, it should come from a spot of deep, considerate compassion. We follow all eight limbs of yoga to equip ourselves to plumb that depth.

In the end, the precept of ahimsa may be utilized to all types of choices that affect our lives—whether or not to eat meat, to who to vote for, or to the right way to handle the legal justice system. However earlier than you may make these selections, you must domesticate a spirit of non-harming inside your self—and in all the pieces you do. Your asana follow is usually a step towards cultivating an power of non-harming, particularly if you happen to apply the precept to the way you strategy your yoga poses.

Inspiration for Ahimsa

With this sequence, we invite you to depart behind any tendency to drive your self right into a pose, energy via ache, choose your skills, or in any other case be unkind to your self. As an alternative, follow in a method that’s nourishing to physique, thoughts, and soul. As you follow the poses, contemplate what you really want and generously provide it to your self. Be mild together with your strategy. And let this sequence encourage you.

Maintain the poses for 3 or extra deep breaths and take note of how your physique feels in every earlier than you progress to the subsequent pose. Kindness to your self consists of taking any variation or modification that you just want. Breathe and meditate on the idea of ahimsa.

Ahimsa Observe

(Picture: Andrew Clark. Clothes: Calia )

Dandasana (Workers Pose)

  1. Sit together with your legs prolonged straight in entrance of you. Contact your large toes collectively and preserve a small quantity of area between your heels. Press your big-toe mounds ahead and draw your toes again towards your physique.
  2. Carry your fingers to relaxation alongside your hips and permit your shoulders to calm down down away out of your ears. Broaden throughout your collarbones, draw your higher arms again, and elevate your sternum.
  3. Attain the crown of your head towards the ceiling and lengthen your again with out taking too inflexible a place. Keep on this pose for a number of breaths, discovering a steadiness between ease and power.
A woman with dark hair practices Upavistha Konasana
(Picture: Andrew Clark. Clothes: Calia)

Upavistha Konasana (Huge-Angled Seated Ahead Bend)

  1. From Dandasana, open your legs out to the edges. Transfer your ft aside, simply till you are feeling a mild stretch in your groin. Flex your ft and interact your thighs in order that the tops of your thighs, your knees, and your toes are pointing up.
  2. Inhale and lengthen your backbone; exhale and hinge at your hips bringing your higher physique ahead any quantity.  You might select to stroll your fingers ahead to carry your torso towards the ground between your legs. Preserve your again straight, however give your self permission to maneuver in any method your physique wants. You might select to discover folding over one leg after which the opposite.
  3. To exit the pose, stroll your fingers again towards your physique and produce your legs collectively to return to Workers Pose. Then swing each legs round in both route to carry your self to your knees in Tabletop.
A woman with colorful arm and back tatoos practices Tabletop pose
(Picture: Picture: Andrew Clark; Clothes: Calia)

Desk High Pose

  1. Come to your fingers and knees, together with your legs hip-width aside and your knees below your hips. Align your shoulders, elbows, and wrists. Unfold your fingers extensive and press your fingertips into the ground.
  2. Have interaction and elevate your stomach towards your backbone. Lengthen your again, reaching the crown of your head ahead. Look straight down.
  3. Take the chance to bend and flex your backbone. Shift your hips and higher physique to curve the backbone left and proper, follow Cat and Cow pose, or discover natural motion that encourages flexibility. If you end up prepared, press again into Little one’s Pose.


A woman practices Balasana (Child's Pose) with blocks under her head and hips. She is wearing a burgundy athletic top and shorts. Kneeling on a light wood floor against a white background.
(Picture: Andrew Clark. Clothes: Calia)

Balasana (Little one’s Pose)

  1. Kneel on the ground. Contact your large toes collectively and sit in your heels, a block, or a blanket roll positioned below your hips.  Separate your knees about as extensive as your hips. In case your physique requires extra of a therapeutic massage alongside the entrance of the physique, preserve your knees nearer collectively.
  2. Exhale and fold ahead; lay your torso down between your thighs. Nestle your hip factors down onto the inside thighs. Broaden throughout the again of your pelvis on the sacrum and lengthen your tailbone away from the again. Tuck your chin barely. Use a block below your brow if that’s extra snug.
  3. Stroll your fingers out towards the entrance of your mat for Prolonged Little one’s pose. Or attain again towards your ft and relaxation the arms on the ground alongside your torso, palms up, releasing the fronts of your shoulders towards the ground to really feel a widening throughout your again.
  4. If you end up prepared, stroll your fingers again towards your physique and press up into Desk.
A Black woman with a hair in a loose bun, practices a modified Camel Pose. she is wearing off-white shorts and a cropped top and kneels on a wood floor against a white background. She has her hands on her hips and gazes up at the ceiling.
(Picture: Andrew Clark. Clothes: Calia)

Ustrasana (Camel Pose)

  1. From Desk Pose, press away from the ground to face in your knees together with your legs hip-width aside. Preserve your hips over your knees and squeeze your thighs towards one another. Tuck your toes or put the tops of your ft on the ground.
  2. Have interaction your decrease stomach. Attain your tailbone towards your knees, elevate your sternum, and attain the crown of your head as much as create size in your backbone. Preserve your chin barely tucked.
  3. Place your fingers in your hips or on behind you together with your palms on the high of your buttocks and your fingers pointing down. Draw your shoulders and elbows again to really feel a gap within the entrance of your physique.
  4. On an exhale, gently arch your again right into a slight again bend, urgent your hip factors ahead.
  5. To exit, carry your chin to your chest, have interaction your decrease stomach and use your fingers to help your decrease again as you come slowly again as much as your knees.
A woman with blond hair kneels in a Low Lunge variation. Her right leg is forward with her foot planted on the floor while kneeling on her left knee. Her hands are on her hips. She is smiling an wearing a blue pattern crop top and matching pants. The wall behind her is white, the floor looks like light hardwood
(Picture: Andrew Clark. Clothes: Calia)

Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)

  1. From Ustrasana, step your proper foot ahead in order that your proper leg kinds a proper angle.
  2. Place your fingers in your hips or fold them collectively in your proper thigh, and ensure each hips are going through ahead equally.
  3. If you would like extra of a stretch, inch your proper foot ahead or slide your left foot again till you are feeling a cushty stretch within the left entrance thigh and groin.
  4. Permit your shoulders to calm down away out of your ears, widen your collar bone, and press the tops of your shoulders again. Look ahead or arch again barely, opening your chest.
A woman practices a lunge pose. Her right foot in forward; her left knee is resting on a folded blanket. She has her hands on cork bloks. She has on red leggings and a cropped top.
(Picture: Andrew Clark. Clothes: Calia)

Banarasana (Excessive Lunge) variation

  1. From Lunge, hinge at your hips to fold ahead and place your fingers on the ground or on blocks on all sides of your proper foot.  Preserve your proper knee over your ankle.
  2. Lengthen your left leg again to create extra stretch alongside the entrance or your thigh. While you really feel regular, you could elevate your left knee off the ground and straighten your again leg, urgent your heel away out of your physique. Really feel a cushty stretch within the left entrance thigh and groin.
  3. Preserve the again of your neck lengthy, extending the crown of your head ahead as you gaze towards the ground
A woman with dark hair and shiny, dark orange tights and top, bends into Pyramid Pose. She places her handds on cork blocks in front of her.
(Picture: Andrew Clark. Clothes: Calia)

Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose/Intense Facet Stretch Pose)

  1. From Lunge,  elevate your again knee off the mat, straighten your entrance leg, and elevate your hips up towards the ceiling.
  2. Have interaction your stomach, keep a hinge at your hips, and fold ahead. Preserve your hips going through ahead equally. Permit the crown of your head to succeed in towards your proper foot.
  3. Discover a steadiness between stretch and motion within the pose. You possibly can play with lifting the precise toes to stretch your ft and calf. Come up in your again toes to have interaction your left thigh and calf. Barely bend both leg (or each) to discover the stretch.
  4. If you end up prepared, step your left foot ahead to satisfy your proper in Uttanasana.
A man with dark hair bends forward in Uttanasana, Standing forward fold. He wears gray-blue shorts and top. His knees are slightly bent. He has his hands on the hardwood floor near his feet.
(Picture: Andrew Clark)

Uttanasana (Standing Ahead Bend)

  1. Bend your knees barely, hinge out of your hips and fold your torso over your legs. Preserve your legs barely bent or elevate your kneecaps and gently press each legs towards straight with out hyperextending.
  2. Preserve your fingers on the ground in entrance of you or grasp every elbow with the other hand and permit your torso and the crown of your head to increase down towards the ground.
  3. If you end up prepared, bend your knees deeply and decrease right into a seated place.

Repeat steps 5-9 on the other aspect.

A person demonstrates a variation of Savasana (Corpse Pose) in yoga, with a rolled blanket under the knees
(Picture: Andrew Clark; Clothes: Calia)

Savasana (Corpse Pose)

End the sequence by resting in Savasana.  Lie on the ground and prolong your legs together with your ft aside and toes turned out. Launch your arms to the ground, angled evenly away from the edges of the physique together with your palms up. Transfer your shoulders down and away out of your ears, and permit them to calm down again towards the ground. Barely tuck your chin to create size at the back of your neck. If it’s extra snug, help your head and neck with a folded blanket, or roll a blanket below your knees. Soften your face; shut your eyes. Keep on this pose for no less than 5 minutes and proceed to relaxation so long as you want. To exit, exhale and gently roll onto one aspect. Take 2 or 3 breaths. With one other exhale, press your fingers towards the ground and elevate your torso, bringing your head slowly after.


For extra in regards to the yama ahimsa, see Rina Deshpande’s article What’s Ahimsa?


Tamara Jeffries, RYT-200,  is a Senior Editor at Yoga Journal. She has been educating yoga since 2013 and working towards for greater than 20 years.







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