Cultivating Compassion Through Yoga

According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.33,

“Through cultivation of friendliness, compassion, joy and indifference to pleasure and pain, virtue and vice respectively, the consciousness becomes favourably disposed, serene and benevolent.”

We all well know that a consistent yoga practice has boundless benefits on the wellbeing of our bodies, but we must also remember that yoga and the Yoga Sutras can essentially benefit us all around, allowing us to better not only our bodies, but our minds and spirits as well.

Compassion means, “shared feeling,” it’s the development of a level of sympathy so strong that it inspires us the need to alleviate another’s pain or sorrow. Compassion is key in the path towards forgiveness and is therefore an incredibly imperative skill that we must practice in our everyday lives.

The true test of compassion, however, is whether or not we can extend it unto ourselves. Practicing yoga presents us with a daily opportunity for exploring self-compassion.

The very first of the ethical guidelines that Pantajali gives in the Yoga Sutras is ahisma or “non-harming.”

This sutra encompasses not only practicing non-harming actions, but also to be mindful of our words and thoughts so that they are not harmful to others.

Whilst we are on our yoga mats, it is essential to remember that striving for our idea of the “perfect pose,” can be detrimental to our practice as it can lead to a competition with ourselves and others practicing around us.

This in turn, inevitably conducts self-harm as it creates feelings of envy to others and dissatisfaction with ourselves. Rather, we should focus on allowing yoga help us call upon and develop compassion in our everyday lives.

Below, there are three ways we can do just that:

1. Mudra: The Lotus Mudra (Symbol of Purity)

Bring your hands to prayer pose (palms together with fingertips touching) in front of your chest. Keep the heels of your hands, your pinkie fingers and thumb fingers touching, and then spread the rest of your fingers widely apart. Imagine a flower blooming. This mudra is associated with the heart chakra, as goodwill, love, sympathy and wholeness live in this place. The affirmation associated with The Lotus Mudra is, “I open myself to nature; I open myself to the good that exists in every human being; I open myself to the Divine so that I will be richly blessed.”

You can do this mudra to relax before bed, before entering a challenging conversation, or event, during your yoga practice or meditation, or any other time you need to cultivate softness.

2. Gods/Goddesses: Kuan Yin

Kuan Yin is the bodhisattva of compassion and kindness. She is a nurturer, a mother goddess and is know to be pure. Buddhists believe that she came from the bodhisattva, Avalokiteśvara, who was depicted as a male in India before Buddhism came to China.

To be reminded of this merciful goddess and what she stands for, keep her picture close by, whether it’s on your alter, fridge, beside your bed or in your wallet. Pray or chant to her whenever you need to evoke compassion.

3. Chants: Om Mani Padme Hum

This chant is associated with Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.

Mani translates to mean, “jewel” and Padma translates to mean “the lotus flower”. Although it is said that the mantra cannot be transcribed into a simple phrase, many believe it means, “the jewel in the lotus flower.”

Speak or chant this mantra loud and proud or under your breath as it not only charming, but also incredibly relaxing.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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