Ahimsa is one of the Yamas of Ashtanga yoga. This Sanscrit word is a term meaning to do no harm, or literally the avoidance of violence. This Yama has unknowingly been a big part of my life journey. At the early age of 8, I vowed that I would never eat another animal. My parents thought it was a phase that I would get over in a couple weeks. Now at 22, not only have I never gone back to eating meat, I have also eliminated animal by-products from my diet as well. To my parents’ surprise, I’ve been vegan for the past 4 years and I have married a kind-hearted, vegan man. To further explain my thoughts behind veganism, here was my thought process: I love animals. As a Christian I believe that God gave animals to us as an option for food after Noah’s ark. God gave us charge/dominion over animals, not to torture them, but to take care of them and sustain ourselves with them. He intended us to have dominion over them in the way He has dominion over us. It is not to be for oppression, but for the betterment of the kingdom (or community). It was not intended for gluttony or for the torture that meat factories now practice.
Another thing I realized was the hypocrisy of my living. I said I loved animals, but I financially supported people who brutally kill them. I helped keep that process going. I love my dog and I would never even think about harming him. What makes a cow different? Veganism was a no-brainer for me once I thought about all of it.
In light of my research of Ahimsa in yoga, I love being vegan more than ever. I’m glad that in that part of my life, I help promote peace with all creation. I’m working on the other parts of my life: road rage, being irritated by people at work, starting arguments with people I disagree with, and wishing anything bad for anyone else. Avoidance of verbal violence, as well as the physical, is part of the principle of Ahimsa. Clearing the mind of harmful thoughts is hard!
I used to struggle with Ahimsa towards myself a lot. Most people are their own hardest critics. I was that and then some. Nothing I did was ever right. The way I looked was never good enough. No matter how many miles I ran and calories I burned, I was never thin enough. I am still too hard on myself sometimes, but I have drastically improved that through self-discipline and a realization of my true value. I think this is one of the most important pieces of Ahimsa: not harming yourself [emotionally].
I have grown to love and appreciate myself. This has 100% changed my life. Now, I seek to help others realize their value and come to love themselves too. It is like being released from shackles. Freedom! Inner peace! Not only am I happier with myself, other people want to be around me more. People like content, joyful, peaceful, positive people. There are few things in life that are as sweet as having a calm spirit and practicing peace towards all.