Originally posted on Chopra.com
The practice of yoga can bestow many gifts—better health, a greater sense of awareness, easier sleep, and so much more. But if you practice yoga with a clear intention, you can also enjoy self-compassion. Consider what you might say to yourself after spilling coffee all over your new outfit on the way to work. Consider what you might say to yourself after missing your latest deadline—again. Consider the wild ideas you might formulate about yourself after being let down by your latest crush. If your inner dialogue is anything like most people’s, you are likely being nasty, cruel, and unforgiving to yourself.
Now imagine what a dear friend might say to you after a challenging day. Perhaps you have called to vent or confess a misstep. Isn’t it wonderful when your friend reminds you of your goodness? It might sound something like this:
You’re being too hard on yourself!
Aww, let yourself off the hook, friend.
You did the best you could.
When you know better, you do better.
We all make mistakes!
Now imagine how much lighter you would feel if your own words to yourself were this kind and caring. Is it possible to be your own best friend?
Being your own best friend is what self-compassion looks like. Throughout the days, you have man opportunities to practice self-compassion. You have opportunities to be a little (a lot!) kinder and friendlier to yourself. You can stop chastising yourself for the “imperfections” you find about your body. You can change the negative things you say about the way you handled conflict or the way you are sometimes forgetful. Or the way you do anything! You can apologize to others (and yourself) as needed and be on your way. How liberating!
Compassion means “to suffer with.” According to Dr. Kristen Neff, author and compassion educator, compassion involves noticing suffering, “feeling moved by others’ suffering so that your heart responds to their pain,” feeling warmth, care, and a desire to help, offering understanding rather than judgment, and realizing “that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience.” Compassion-It, a nonprofit organization and global movement whose mission is to inspire daily compassionate actions and attitudes, explains, “Here’s another way of looking at compassion. It’s empathy plus action. Throughout your daily interactions, try putting yourself in another's shoes. Then think, ‘What can I do to help this person?’ Often, a simple smile can make a big impact! . . . Countless scientific studies indicate that compassion doesn’t merely help those who receive compassion. Practicing compassion makes us happier and healthier. It strengthens relationships, creates communities and fosters world peace.” As luck would have it, being kind to yourself and others has many benefits!
Then Embrace Self-Compassion
Self-compassion, then, is acting this same friendly way toward yourself, even in times of difficulty and failure. Dr. Neff explains that “having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness” and “entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.”
In modern society and culture, this approach to life, loving, and accepting yourself as you are is revolutionary! Sharon Salzberg, author and meditation teacher, quoting the Buddha in her book LovingKindness, The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, shares, “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
And it turns out that the practice of yoga is a great place to practice self-compassion. The practice of yoga includes physical postures and sequences, mindful meditations, intentional breathwork, and a variety of personal devotional practices. Practiced mindfully and intentionally, yoga can be a space to cultivate self-compassion. Because of its nature as a holistic approach to well-being, designed to raise the energetic vibration of the practitioner, yoga is well-suited as a laboratory for both practicing and experiencing self-compassion.
Try the following ideas to practice yoga in a way that helps to cultivate self-compassion, both on and off the yoga mat.
1. Set Self-Compassion as Your Intention
At the beginning of your asana, pranayama, or meditation practice, set a clear intention of self-compassion. An intention is a guide for your practice and can help you find focus when your mind drifts. Setting the purpose of your practice as self-compassion sets you up to be kind to yourself throughout your time on the yoga mat. Each posture is an opportunity to practice compassion toward yourself.
2. Practice Yoga with Your Eyes Closed
Whether practicing solo or in a group class setting, after you get set up and situated, try allowing your eyes to close for some or all of your practice. If closing your eyes does not feel safe for you for any reason, allow your eyelids to be heavy and your gaze soft. Instead of focusing on what a pose should look like or how your variation of a pose compares to other practitioners, with your eyes closed your awareness can turn inward to your experience of the pose.
Consider what it feels like to be maneuvering your body through the (often hilarious!) yoga postures. Consider what kind of miracles occur in your muscles and joints and bones for you to be able to stretch and balance as you do. With your eyes closed, you have more of an opportunity to take notice of your emotional experience in a pose as you unlock the energetic pathways that may have been blocked for years. Not every pose will be a revelation, but tuning into the space of the dark behind your eyelids can be the beginning of truly getting to know yourself and your body in a new way.
3. Take a Look Around
On the other hand, it can be extremely beneficial to open your eyes as you practice. As you look at other variations of poses in a group yoga class setting you may notice the diversity of options and bodies. You may see someone using a yoga block in a creative way to support themselves. You may see someone taking Child’s Pose to rest. You may see someone challenging themselves to try a pose they have never done. Allow this all to be inspiration for your own practice. What a plethora of beauty and bravery to be found in one yoga class!
It is important to remember that comparison can rob you of your joy; if you notice you are looking around and translating awareness into negative speak toward yourself or others, focus your eyes back on your mat. As you look at your own body, with all of its strengths and struggles, you may find something to be grateful for. Look lovingly at your skin, hands, and feet. Allow your face to soften into a smile as you remember how truly lucky you are to be able to practice yoga in any of the ways that you do.
4. Practice Loving-Kindness Meditation
When you try to see yourself in others, you are moving toward an enlightened state. Practicing metta meditation, or loving-kindness meditation, toward yourself and others is one way to cultivate compassion. During any and all interactions with others, remember this:
Just like me:
This person is seeking some happiness in their life.
This person is trying to avoid suffering in their life.
This person has known sadness and loneliness, hard times and struggle.
This person is learning about life.
And offer up intentional loving kindness to each person. This can be practiced silently while you walk down the street, during your time on the yoga mat, or as a formal seated meditation.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you feel safe.
May you feel free.
May you live life with ease.
And offer up these same wishes for happiness and freedom to yourself. Let it become your daily mantra.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I feel safe.
May I feel free.
May I live life with ease.
Remember, when you show up for yourself compassionately, you take time to nourish yourself completely. When your body, mind, heart, and spirit are attended to, you have more capacity to let yourself off the hook when you “mess up” or fall into old patterns. It can be helpful to remember that everyone is doing the best that they can do.
When you show up for yourself, then you are better able to show up as the best version of yourself for your family, friends, coworkers, communities, and the world. It serves us all when you serve yourself a huge helping of compassion. In her book, Radical Compassion, author and meditation teacher Tara Brach, defines radical compassion as including the vulnerability of this life—all life—in your heart. It means having the courage to love yourself, each other, and the world. Radical compassion is rooted in mindful, embodied presence, and it is expressed actively through caring that includes all beings.” Make sure to include yourself in this understanding of “all beings” and practice self-compassion daily.
Originally posted on Chopra.com
If you want to create new habits and fulfill your dreams in the year ahead, read on to learn practical tips for setting powerful New Year’s resolutions and successfully sticking with them.
You are whole. You are perfect. You do not need to change a single thing about yourself. However, if there are some aspects of your life that you would like to change, the start of the year may be just the time to set goals and make positive shifts.
Although most of us know that January first is an arbitrary date, the tradition of beginning anew and starting fresh has power. In fact, it is beneficial to revisit goals, dream up new ideas, and take stock of how you are living your life at any time. While some people set resolutions for the new year ahead, others like to assess their lives on their birthday, some practice creating daily intentions, and others review their goals on a weekly or monthly basis. Others rarely, if ever, investigate how they are living their lives.
If setting intentions at this time of year brings you joy and inspiration, consider carving out a few minutes to several hours to get curious about yourself. Don’t set common New Year’s resolutions just because your friends did. Take the time to consider the areas in your life that you may like to transform, and use the tips offered below to set some resolutions and focus on them in the year ahead.
How Can You Stick to Your Goals?
So, you set some resolutions for the new year. You start hitting the gym twice a week, putting away a hundred dollars a month, and calling your dad. And then the second week of January arrives, and you are back to sleeping in, spending money on eating out, and putting off that phone call until another day. What gives? Why is it so challenging to stick to goals? What are the keys to successfully sticking to your goals?
As researchers have found, you may have trouble following through if your resolutions feel like something you “should” do rather than something you truly want. As one study describes, “People are most likely to be effective when they pursue goals that either engage their natural interests or express their authentic personal values.” In addition, old habits die hard. It takes many weeks and months to break or create a new habit. Give yourself time and space to turn your new intentions into habits.
Here are some helpful tips for setting—and following through on—resolutions that you will actually want to spend your time and energy working to achieve.
1. Ask Yourself Questions
Imagine you are on a first date … with yourself! What would you want to know? What would you be excited to hear about? What would bore you to tears? Set up a voice recorder or write in your journal that typical date opener: “So, tell me about yourself.” And then answer as best you can. Here are some good starting questions:
2. Consider How You Want to Feel
Author Danielle LaPorte writes and speaks passionately about setting goals based on how you wish to feel. In her bestselling book, The Desire Map, LaPorte writes, “Everything we do is driven by the desire to feel a certain way. What you buy, what you eat, what you say, who you choose to hang with, the things you make, the people you give your love to, what you wear, what you listen to, what you bring into your home, what you end, begin, and dream of … all go back to the desire to feel good.” Consider setting intentions based on how you want to feel in several areas of your life. In her book, LaPorte suggests choosing several positive feeling words, looking up the definitions, sitting with the words, and choosing your “core desired feelings” for the year ahead. When you keep these positive—such as courageous, peaceful, rested, purposeful, valuable, at ease, and free—at the forefront of your mind, they can help guide your actions, interactions, and choices. How do you want to feel? And what do you need to do to feel the way you want to feel?
3. Chunk the Areas of Your Life
As you set out to create your intentions, consider what areas of your life in which you would like to create a shift. Do you want to focus on your exercise routine? Your home? Your work life? Of course, each area of your life is connected to the others, so a change in one area could affect change in another. Could you shift your eating habits and transform your workday? Could you take active care of your own mental well-being and experience shifts in your relationships with friends and loved ones? LaPorte suggests choosing core desired feelings for the following areas of life:
4. Set SMART Goals
Once you have chosen your resolutions, it is of utmost importance to make them realistically achievable. Having the intentions to “be strong” and “get healthy” do not have much meaning unless they are attached to something tangible.
One strategy for making your intentions into attainable, long-term goals is to create SMART goals. “SMART” is an acronym for the following keys:
5. Follow Through
Once you have set your intentions, it’s time to stay focused on fulfilling them. Here are some helpful ways to follow through on your resolutions:
As you go about setting resolutions, it is important to learn to accept yourself exactly as you are, as well as to continue to grow and aspire to be the best version of yourself that you can be. Have compassion for yourself and where you are. And don’t stress out—stay calm and remember that you do not actually have to change anything about yourself. You are lovable and acceptable. What a relief! And maybe there are some things you want to accomplish in your life. Maybe you want to finally take that trip to Italy and be wowed by the fine food there. Maybe you want to be more patient with your sister so you can cherish the time you spend together. Maybe you want to sign up for those pottery classes and nurture your creativity. There may be some big bucket-list dreams that you want to fulfill. There may be some areas of personal growth that you want to focus on. Whatever direction you choose to go, have fun and be kind to yourself as you ease out of your comfort zone and set goals that will improve or enhance your life.
If you’ve chosen to work on new goals this year, do it wisely. Small changes can have big impacts. Big changes can be achievable if they are broken down into smaller goals. How do you want to feel this year? What areas of your life could use a closer look? Spend time setting intentions with soul and create SMART goals and you will be well on your way to becoming the best YOU that you can be.