By Sushant Pandey

अहिंसाप्रतिष्ठायां तत्सन्निधौ वैरत्यागः॥३५॥
Ahiṁsāpratiṣṭhāyāṁ tatsannidhau vairatyāgaḥ||35||

On the establishment of Ahiṁsā or Non-injury (in a Yogī, there is) cessation of hostility (in one) coming close to him||35||

Ahimsa is ‘nonviolence’; the first and the foremost of the five Yama (Social codes of conduct) in the yoga sutras of Patanjali.

Ahimsa is non-violence, the first and the foremost of the Yamas from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Yoga is the path and a lifestyle to transform and refine the consciousness of the individual. It is not merely a set of asana (posture) or techniques which are practiced in a class room alone. Therefore when we look into the subject matter of the classical yoga text of Patanjali, we find that it propounds to harmonize the various facets of our personality by adopting an uplifting regimen of a yogic life. In order to experience or actualize the nature of spiritual self, management of social as well as personal lives is advocated.

Ahimsa is ‘nonviolence’; the first and the foremost of the five Yama (social codes of conduct) in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It is the infliction of pain and the manifestation of hostility which one carries within. The Yamas are the prerequisites of a yogic journey which are always ignored in yoga classes. But these Yamas and Niyamas (individual codes of conduct) help in shaping and refining one’s approach to yoga and internally one’s own self, as well.

Taming the self defeating tendencies in yoga practice

When we reach a yoga class with impatient and agitated energies then there are chances that we inflict pain and injuries. Ahimsa tells us to be self accepting and follow the practice while respecting the self and being aware. One should always respect limitations as these limitations are the blocks created by the preexisting psychic complexes and conflicts within us. One should not deal with these blocks with unnecessary force and violence. The theory ‘no pain no gain’ is not what one should adopt during the practices, rather move with mindfulness.  Having a relaxed state of body and mind will help deepening the understanding of the cause of pain and limitations.

We tend to carry impatience, dissipation and tensions within us, which also at times reflect upon our approach to the practice. When one adopts the attitude of Ahimsa in one’s practice, our own impatience and agitations start to wean away and will help us in settling deeper into the practice. The practice will change from a ‘result-focused’ to ‘process-focused’ experience hence helping one to reach the state of relaxed alertness and inner harmony.

Cultivate the awareness

Yoga is not just moving in and out of poses rather it is a discipline to cultivate awareness. From the perspective of traditional yoga developing flexibility, strength or performing difficult poses do not determine the stage of evolution of practitioners. The most important element in practice is to develop awareness of the “here and now” while doing the practice. This element of awareness brings elegance, control and inner poise within the practice.

Respect the Body

Incorporating Ahimsa in yoga class involves an awareness and perspective which respect and honour the body. It is not only important to experience yoga with inner poise and harmony but it helps practitioners to avoid injuries in class. The sensation of pain is a wonderful message of the body. It is a signal from the body to regulate and adjust the movements, intensity of effort and sometimes aggression. Too much of aggression and force during the practice create a ripple of nervous energies in the mind-body complex.  This surge of anxiety and nervousness thwart the effort to experience and connect with the benefits and positive experience of the pose.

Photograph above by Coni Hörler

1918238_10205730867691065_5021540092050213186_nSushant embarked on a journey of yoga in 1997 as a post graduate student of Yoga Psychology from Bihar Yoga Bharati (Deemed University); known worldwide for its authentic and systematic teachings of the yogic discipline. After completing his Post Graduation in Yoga Psychology; he was involved as an intern in various projects/studies in prisons, army, hospitals and corporate for one and half years. After an internship; he was appointed lecturer in the Department of Yoga Psychology at Bihar Yoga Bharati, which provided him ample opportunities to explore the theoretical as well as practical dimensions of yogic knowledge.

In 2006 Sushant joined Ananda in the Himalayas (Destination Spa) and worked there as Head of Yoga. In 2010 I was voted and awarded as Reader’s choice Top 10 Favourite Spa Professional Award by SPA FINDER magazine, and yoga at Ananda was honoured as Best for Yoga for years 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Currently Sushant lives in Russia and India and conducts retreats and workshops on Yoga philosophy, meditations and Kriya Yoga.

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4 replies on “The Practice of Ahimsa

  1. This was a breath of fresh air. Thank you for reminding me how to find that special and harmonious place that is waiting and within us all.


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