Ahimsa- Loving Kindness

Every month, WE highlights a specific virtue from the yogic code of ethics, as outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra, the most widely regarded text on yoga. 

The first virtue in the 10-part series is Ahimsa– loving kindness.

The guidelines found in the yogic code of ethics are distinguished into two groups. The first set is the yamas. These virtues focus on restraint (things not to do) and are directed toward our interactions with self, others, and the outside world. The five yamas are: ahimsa (nonviolence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (non-excess), and aparigraha (non-greed). The second group of ethical guidelines is the niyamas.  These virtues are personal practices, which relate to our inner world and the attitudes we adopt toward ourselves.  The five niyamas are: sauca (cleanliness), santosa (contentment), tapas (self-discipline), svadhyaya (self-study), and isvara pranidhana (surrender).

The first yama, and our theme for WE during the month of January, is ahimsa.  The word himsa means “injustice” or “cruelty.”  The prefix a- suggests the absence or “lack-of.” Taken together, ahimsa is the complete absence of violence from one’s mind, body, and spirit.

Here, violence is considered to be anything that pushes love away.  Examples of this type of violence could include condemning or judgmental thoughts toward yourself or others, a critical attitude, a lack of forgiveness, over-eating, expecting too much of yourself, littering, not resting when your body is tired, anger, etc. However, ahimsa is so much more than the absence of cruelty or violence.  It is not simply refraining from cruelty, but, rather, consciously and actively engaging in kindness, compassion, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things.

Ahimsa is living in harmony with ourselves, others, and our environment.  As with most things in life, the process of living in loving kindness begins within. It begins with choosing to replace the judgmental and critical voice inside our head with a voice of compassion, acceptance, and love. 

Only when we learn to be kind to ourselves are we free to be kind to others. The next time you’re tempted to berate yourself for missing the mark, simply pause, smile, and offer yourself a little grace. 

You were created with purpose. The active practice of loving kindness is the energetic spark that allows you to step into your purpose and move forward with courage, confidence, and thoughtful consideration. 

As we welcome in the new year, let us endeavor to embark on the journey of ahimsa, refraining from actions that push love away; instead, let’s consciously choose the path of nonviolence and loving kindness.  


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