I know what they say about making assumptions, but I’m going to go out on a limb and make an assumption that I will apply to all of us: we could all benefit from practicing our self-compassion, any time, any day, often, and even always. “Always” is the key word here implying that this is a good candidate for a classic yoga intention. Remember that an intention is what gives your yoga practice meaning, focus, and purpose, and there is always an opportunity for you, every time you step on your mat, to set a new (or old) intention. Self-compassion is one of my “old” intentions. I never tire of it, and it always brings me an occasion to heal and grow.
According to Google, compassion is “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” Self compassion involves acting similarly towards yourself when you perceive failures, inadequacies, or shortcomings in self, or when you are just generally struggling.
So how can you practice self-compassion during your yoga practice? There are so many opportunities! Do you ever struggle with a specific posture, or with strength or flexibility, or with body image or negative self-talk? I struggle with each of these regularly! Though, thanks to practicing with the intention of self-compassion, I can honestly say that I struggle with these probably 75% less than I used to, and it feels SO GOOD!
The next time one of these instances presents itself to you during your practice, choose to put aside the judgement and criticism for the moment then simply notice and observe. For example, think “I see that my self-talk became negative when I lost my balance in that posture,” or “I’m aware that I felt badly towards myself when I saw my reflection in the mirror in that posture.”
Next, try to extend kindness, understanding and comfort to yourself, rather than continuing with the criticism and judgement. Try saying to yourself “Aw, losing my balance didn’t feel good because I wanted to nail that posture! It can be challenging to try something and not succeed perfectly, but I know that nobody is perfect, so it’s OK for me to be imperfect sometimes, too!” Or, “Oh, when I focus on what I dislike in my reflection, it doesn’t feel good. I want to help myself feel good, so I’m going to look again and try to focus on something that I do like about my image!”
This may feel silly at first…at least it did for me. But this is a practice, and with time this will become easier and more natural, and begin to feel good! So to recap: step one is to notice and observe, and step two is to offer kindness, understanding and comfort to self. By applying this two-step practice of self-compassion to your yoga practice regularly, your relationship to self, and perception of self, will shift radically and harmoniously, bringing about your health and happiness. Eventually your experiences on the mat will translate into experiences off of the mat, and the ripple effect will continue on into other aspects of your life and even into the lives of those around you. So begin your journey to health and happiness today by practicing with the intention of self-compassion!