Have you ever noticed how you are so much tougher on yourself than you are towards your partner, friends, family, or colleagues? Do you constantly hear your inner critic telling you that you can’t accomplish a certain goal or task? Self-love and kindness to yourself are some of the most important lessons of yoga.

Yoga is a path of awakening. It is through your yoga practices that you are able to see the nature of things more clearly. By doing so, you understand how everything is interconnected.

Through yoga, you can learn how to be kind regardless of how you’re feeling. 

Ahimasa: The practice of kindness

Ahimsa or “non-harming” is an integral part of yoga. Ahimasa is the practice of kindness. Compassion, or “karuna”, is another key element of the spiritual path.  These are the tenets and foundations on which all yoga practice rests.

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Yoga and the body

Self compassion is another tenet that we learn in our yoga practice. It is recognising that on some days you are more tired and your body is not as strong. It is allowing yourself to come to child’s pose instead of pushing yourself to do the more difficult poses during your yoga practice. Self compassion involves modifying your postures that will suit your needs at the moment. Through yoga, we learn the difference between having self-compassion and pushing your body too far.

All these yoga tenets are manifested on and off the mat. How we think and behave towards ourselves on the mat mirrors our everyday living. What we learn on the mat, applies off the mat. When you treat yourself with kindness on your yoga mat, you’ll start to notice how compassion and kindness find its way into all other areas of your life. You also find it easier to treat other people with the kindness that you show yourself.

Compassion towards yourself

Compassion is one of the “four immeasurables” from the Buddhist traditions, along with loving-kindness, equanimity and joy. Both loving-kindness and compassion start within yourself.

For many people, showing compassion and kindness to themselves is difficult to do. Most people believe that we need self-criticism in order to motivate us. However, through yoga, we learn that it is quite the opposite.

A compassionate and kind attitude is cultivated as part of the yin yoga practice. When you practice this often on the mat it naturally becomes second nature for when you are off the mat. Kindness and compassion do not equate to allowing yourself to slack off. It is knowing when to push your body to gain more strength and knowing when to rest and recover.

It’s natural that we are not as strong on some days than on others. So a compassionate stance toward ourselves is essential. We must remind ourselves that our yoga practice is indeed an act of love, of deep and warm friendship, and compassion towards ourselves.

Compassion for others

We must remember that we cannot give from an empty cup. We must fill our cup first with love and compassion and give freely to others from the overflow.

Mindful yoga and meditation help us develop skills and practices to cultivate compassion, and enhance our own sense of wellbeing and self-responsibility. By consciously taking care of our own wellbeing and self-esteem first, we are then enable to connect with our inner self for resilience. When we take care of ourselves first, we find it easier to show compassion and kindness to others.

In conclusion:

Happiness is not achieved when you perfect a yoga form. Yoga is so much more than being able to do a fancy pose. There is a deeper happiness that arises when you are able to master love, kindness, compassion, and patience to yourself and to your body through yoga. Once you have mastered how to treat yourself kindly, it overflows and you are able to give that same kindness and compassion to others freely.

So on your next yoga practice, as you do your yoga pose, speak kindly to yourself. Tell yourself inwardly and silently,  “May I treat myself with love and compassion in this moment. I am whole. I am enough.


References

  • Does Yoga Teach Kindness? https://bit.ly/30MIB3f
  • Love and Kindness are the True Essence of Yoga: https://bit.ly/30MGIDR
  • Loving Kindness Yoga Practice For Self-Love: https://bit.ly/2WV8RY2
  • Yoga, Self-Compassion, and Accepting the Inner Critic: https://bit.ly/3geKtIN

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