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Karunā and Ahiṃsā

by Ingrid Arnou June 30, 2020

Karunā and Ahiṃsā

Being compassionate and non-harming towards ourselves and others 

"Yoga is not about touching your toes, it is what you learn on the way down." - Jigar Got 

Yoga is a practice of self-awareness. In the beginning it can be challenging or uncomfortable to practice asanas that your body resists to do. Letting go of expectations and ideas about self imposed ideals, makes space to feel complete and proud of yourself, regardless of where you are in your journey. 

By working on the body, you work on the mind. Compassion, kindness and non-harming are essential skills to cultivate to transform your life and practice, on and off your mat. Karunā and ahiṃsā refer to how we relate to others and more importantly, also can be applied to how we treat the self.

Karunā (Sanskrit:करुण) can be translated as compassion or kindness. Karunā is a concept from Buddhism that is quite complex in its meaning. It is a concept that is close to connectedness, empathy and active sympathy. It is about understanding the suffering of others and ourselves. It also is about equanimity and is linked to the neutral colour grey. 

The word compassion literally means to “suffer with”. It is a caring intention to support a suffering person in a loving, selfless way. Having compassion means that you are forgiving and offer kindness when people make mistakes, rather than judge them. Coming together to practice yoga, being part of a loving community, is such a joyful feeling when compassion and kindness are embodied and practiced. 

Ahiṃsā(Sanskrit:अहिंसा) is one of the Yamas (ethical guidelines of yoga), meaning non-violence: not to cause injury through actions, words or thoughts. If everything is connected and all beings are interdependent, then every action, how small it may seem, affects the whole. To harm another being, is the same as harming ourselves and the other way around.

Most of the time it is easy to be warm and forgiving towards others, but we are still criticising ourselves for our personal shortcomings. Being compassionate towards yourself is really no different from being kind to others. Self-compassion and a non-harming attitude is about caring for yourself when you are going through a difficult or challenging time, being soft and loving. Honor and accept your humanness and do not identify with the inner critic, that is inside all of us.

When you try a posture, it does not matter whether you are able to do it in the ‘perfect’ form. You have to start where you are and energetically something shifts once you just try and invest all you have to give. Yoga practice is about learning to be comfortable when we are challenged. Nobody has a perfect body or perfect mind. Regardless, there is every reason to be proud and grateful for working on yourself.



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