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Ahimsa: Five Ways to Practice Non-Violence Toward Yourself

When all this COVID craziness came down, what did you do? I spent several weeks working from home, stress-eating, binge-watching, worrying, and watching my fitness schedule go right down the shitter.

A few months later, I've gotten back on track (for the most part) and I'm adapting to this new way of interacting with the world. The practice of Ahimsa helped remind me of the importance of self-care.

The yamas and niyamas are basically the ten commandments of yoga, without all the guilt associated with messing up. The first yama, Ahimsa, creates the foundation for how we treat the world around us by focusing on how we treat ourselves.

The practice of non-violence (or compassion) starts with the idea that you - and everything in this world - are worthy of all good things and deserve to be treated with respect. Once you believe in the value of every living thing, including yourself, you find deep wells of patience, understanding, forgiveness and worthiness.

Here are 5 easy ways to practice non-violence toward yourself.

  1. Allow yourself to do nothing every day. You can meditate, pray, daydream, nap, breathe, sit and stare at the wall or watch the sunset - as long as you're not bringing worry, stress or doubt into that nothingness. We've been trained to be busy all the damn time. Just stop for a few minutes each day - without judgment!

  2. Notice the negative talk. I don't mean the bitchy ladies who gossip about everyone, I mean the voices in your own head that tear you down. Once you notice how often you beat yourself up, you can do something about it. When you catch yourself in downward-spiral bullshit, think a gentle "Stop" to let go. You might need to say "Stop" 594 times before you train yourself to end the negative berating, but it's so worth it.

  3. Eat and sleep. Eat foods that make you feel good. Sleep when you need rest. It's pretty basic, but we ignore it all time, trying to exist on seven Red Bulls, chicken nuggets and three hours of sleep. When your body feels good, you feel good. Not rocket science. Treat your body like the masterpiece it is.

  4. Do things that make you happy. When all your time is spent making sure your kids, spouse, friends or co-workers are healthy, happy, responsible members of society, you end up a grumpy ball of spite. Prioritize your happiness to be more effective at everything else. What do you love? Cooking, reading, writing, running, swimming, salsa dancing, spelunking? A daily dose can bring immediate changes.

  5. Stop the comparison game. Your neighbor makes homemade bread every day, runs five miles each morning, sews quilts for newborns and serves delicious meals made from the fruit and vegetables she grows. So what? That doesn't have to be you. Life is not a competition and your neighbor is not your adversary. You don't know the challenges she faces - and she doesn't know yours. You're doing the best you can - and that's all you can do.

Practice each tip for a few days before moving onto the next one. You don't have to do it all today. You don't have to do it all tomorrow. Just get in the habit of treating yourself with kindness, love, forgiveness and a lot of laughter.

Peri Kinder is a Yoga Alliance Certified Yoga Teacher, Life Coach, Meditation Instructor and Humor Columnist.

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