Ahimsa, The Practice of Non-Harming

Father holding his son's handThe term “Ahimsa”, translated literally from Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, means non-harming. Revered modern-day leaders, like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. lived their lives according to the tenets of ahimsa, even while waging their own social battles against violent regimes which they wished to change. But the concept of ahimsa has been ever-present in human history, deeply rooted in the teachings of inspirational religious figures like Jesus, Buddha, and Krishna.

It might sound like a lofty, philosophic ideal, but I think Ahimsa is particularly pertinent right now, with our hurting economy, obesity and diabetes rates at an all time high, and a general sense of fear that I sense when I walk down the street.

If we take a minute to practice Ahimsa, I can’t help but think the world would be a better, more positive place. It’s easy to make it a part of your life, in fact you can start practicing it right now. You don’t even have to know anything about history or religion and you’ll still get all the benefits of living a life more conscientiously. To “not harm” something is to respect it at the deepest possible level, but how does this relate to everyday actions within a modern life?

For Your Body

Here are some easy, fast ways to incorporate ahimsa into our daily lives with minimal thought, ways that anyone can do:

  • Just caught a cold and already committed to girl’s night out? Be kind and have a cup of hot tea at the bar instead of that glass of wine. Your sore throat will thank you in the morning.
  • Don’t wage war on your body just because you’re a “weekend warrior”. Learn how to stop when you feel real, intense pain, even if it means losing a point.
  • Bad day at work and feeling blue? Don’t reach for that tub of ice cream – sooth yourself by taking a restorative soak in your bath tub instead.
  • No time for exercise? Get up just 20 minutes earlier a day and do a mini routine to revitalize and start to tone your body.

For Your Mind

We can respect ourselves by exercising and eating well, but ahimsa actually starts in the mind. So, be kind in the mind and rid yourself of negative thoughts:

  • Start your day off on a positive foot and continue throughout the week. Think of just one thing that you are grateful for as soon as you wake up each morning, for a solid week. It might be your morning coffee the first day, but I bet by day seven you’ll have a whole list of things that keep you grinning throughout the day.
  • Next time you feel like dishing the dirt about someone at work, talk about something you love instead. You’ll not only feel better that you held your tongue, but you’ll also start to cultivate more positive thoughts about yourself instead of putting others down to feel better.
  • Give yourself an instant energy boost. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a while and tell them how much you appreciate them.
  • Do you feel the pressure of a busy work week getting to you? Don’t snap at your spouse or child, give them a hug instead.

Related Posts

  • Learn easy strategies for sneaking in exercising even when you’re not in the mood!
  • Curious about yoga and why yogis practice ahimsa? Browse my list of favorite yoga texts.
  • Here are fun ways to show kindness every day.
  • Learn how to practice ahimsa from a master yogi right in the heart of New York City.


  1. I love your posts, Jennifer! So thoughtful, insightful and intelligent! Thank you!!

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