Our digital writer, Chaja, takes a look at the yamas through the lens of motherhood. Here, she turns her attention to ahimsa and how it applies to raising her two sons.
The first ethical principal outlined in yoga philosophy is ahimsa, which means to do no harm. This is immediately a very challenging one for me, especially in relation to my children.
One way that I practice ahimsa is through following, as much as possible, a plant-based diet. Apart from the health benefits of being vegetarian, seeing the impact that animal agriculture has on the environment, along with my compassion for other sentient beings, made this a natural and easy shift. It’s just one way I continue yoga off the mat.
It was while on a recent holiday that my idea of this ethical principle was challenged. Sitting in a restaurant with my husband and our two boys, I was struck by the proudness and independence shining from my eldest boy’s eyes. He was reading the menu card in the restaurant by himself – something he’s only recently started doing. It was fantastic to see him begin his journey of independence and discovery. But then I realised that he was looking at the meat dishes. His eyes met mine and then he turned towards his dad (also a meat eater) to check what particular Italian words meant.
In the past, I would have ordered something vegetarian for him. But now I was struck with a question – if I force him to not eat meat and fish, even with the best intentions, am I in fact doing my son harm by taking away his right to choose and discover? Is this really ahimsa?
I decided to let him enjoy his choice. That being said, situations like this always scar me a bit.
I know that my boys are aware of why people choose to be vegetarian or vegan. This was clear when my six-year-old recently mentioned while we were eating a dish with eggs: “But now we are basically eating something that would have become an animal.” To which I replied that he is completely right and the next step would be to become vegan.
I think as a parent, and in particular during our current times, it’s important to give children a bit of context of the planetary crisis we are living in. While I don’t want to add stress and worry to my boys’ lives, I think it’s important to create some awareness, responsibility and the space to ask questions.
For my boys, the outside world has naturally become more and more interesting and part of their daily lives. The interactions that my boys have and will have with the outside world and those that we will have together can put pressure on our natural connections. But ultimately, I am there for them to provide structure, support and love as they go on their own path of adventures.
I know that my boys are aware of Ahimsa, yet they would need their own experiences to feel and understand what violence and non-violence mean and how that could influence them, their actions and their environment.
Luckily when we get home, my boys will be eating way less meat and fish again...
About Chaja van Boesschoten
Chaja is a Hatha yoga teacher, international project manager and digital writer. She has become so captivated by the knowledge of yoga science and the immense possibilities of the breath, that her life has become devoted to yoga.
Chaja was born in The Netherlands, she is married to a Scottish man and has two sons who were born in two different countries. She now lives in Italy and finds it beautiful to use the knowledge of different languages and experiences to transmit yoga. Yoga is available to everyone, but she sees the importance to bring it to people who are possibly unaware of it, to people who live in socially vulnerable situations, to people suffering mentally (as a consequence of the pandemic e.g.) and to influencers.