For me ahimsa is perhaps one of the cornerstones of yoga. Ahimsa or the principle of non-harm virtually covers all aspects of life. I could write a book on the topic, but for space and time, I want to address personal non-harm today.
What does it mean to not harm yourself? Of course, we can get really extreme such as bodily harm like cutting or other forms of physical harm. But there is also subtle ways that we harm ourselves, perhaps even daily. For example, over-consumption of food, alcohol, drugs, television, video games, etc. You know where I’m going. No, I am not going to sit here and nag about how you shouldn’t have eaten the entire bag of potato chips, but we know what our weaknesses are. Time and again I have heard that when people adopt a yogic lifestyle or a “healthy” lifestyle, you slowly begin to remove or curtail certain personal habits.
Other forms of self-harm include being in abusive relationships, not getting enough exercise, stressing ourselves out to the point that we engage in unhealthy behaviors such as over-____ (you can fill in the blanks). The opposite of self-harm is self-love. Although we live in a society that espouses selflessness but at the same time glorifies individuality, we receive tons of contradictory messages in the media, music, film, etc. Often our self-harm is product of fear (I will dedicate an entire blog to that one!).
So what I propose is that you take one behavioral change you wish to incorporate into your life. I stress one because often (like in New Year’s resolutions), we promise we will exercise, eat healthy. quit smoking/drinking, etc. etc. Those resolutions at best may last a week. Take one, such as trying to incorporate walking. such as meditative walking (see link), 3 times a week for 20 minutes. If you miss a day, don’t sweat it. Start again. But don’t stop because you missed a day or two. Just resolve not to stop. It is the first step toward loving yourself and turning around unhealthy personal behavior.