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Ahimsa & Self Care by Julie Parvati Hillman

By Santosha Yoga

MON NOV 29, 2021


The holiday season is always full of both joys and stresses, happiness and sadness. It is important that we find ways to engage in self-care to keep ourselves grounded. We can use the guidance of the Yamas and Niyamas to help us navigate the holidays and take care of ourselves.

The Yamas and Niyamas are ethical observances and disciplines that have guided yogis as they strive to live a spiritual life. Although developed thousands of years ago, these teachings remain relevant even in our modern lives. The first Yama traditionally taught to yogis is Ahimsa. Ahimsa translates to non-harming or non-violence. And I see two specific ways we can use Ahimsa in our self-care this holiday season.

The first is our attitudes and thoughts towards others. With all the holiday commotion, there is bound to be a situation that upsets you. Everyone is out shopping for gifts, buying food for that special dinner, long lines of cars into the shopping centers, and even longer lines at the check-out. It is easy to become frustrated and angry, but when we begin yelling or retaliating, we are perpetuating harmful sentiments. We anger someone because we yell at them; we harm ourselves because we re-live that situation in our mind over and over. Choosing empathy and understanding over anger-based reactions is one way to foster non-harming toward others; less anger towards others means less anger we carry within us.

Ahimsa can also be used to guide how we treat ourselves during the holidays, as well as during the rest of the year. “…society trains us to be so hard on ourselves in the quest for success [perfect holiday, in this case]. We…speak so violently of ourselves and to ourselves” (Becoming Parvati, p51). Observe your self-talk when you’re running late when you burn the pie when you can’t find the perfect gift. Observe the self-talk that arises anytime you believe that you messed up or didn’t do good enough. Replace those thoughts with ones about your successes – and maybe praise for the delicious mashed potatoes. Ahimsa as self-care shows us the importance of our self-talk on our well-being. As I state in Becoming Parvati, “if we treat ourselves with hate and violent thoughts, how are we likely to treat [others]?”

So, take time to praise your efforts. Take time to slow down, physically and mentally. Participate in activities that calm the mind, such as Yoga Nidra. And if you have an angry or hurtful thought toward yourself or someone else, find at least one positive thought about that person – two if that anger was toward yourself. And if you’d like to learn more about how the Yamas and Niyamas can guide your modern life, please read Becoming Parvati: A Modern Exploration of the Yamas & Niyamas, available on Amazon.