I’m on my fifth year of my yoga practice. My first class was at 6 am, at my gym before work. As I was laying down for my first savasana, I felt an enormous release, a relief and relaxation I hadn’t felt before. I was hooked.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, I had practiced self-compassion for the first time. Sounds crazy, right?
In the last year of my practice, I’ve noticed that we as a society value self esteem and compassion towards others. But it was discovering self-compassion that unlocked the lustrous gem of my True Self and led to feeling content and happy and connected with the world. So what is self compassion?
- Using positive self-talk. Talking to yourself as you would someone you love.
- Noticing similarities in your experiences and others’ experiences. The “hey, we’re not so different, you and I” feeling.
- Recognizing your thoughts and emotions do not define you. Just because you messed up doesn’t make You (your True Self) a failure, nor does having angry thoughts make You an angry person.
How is that different from self-esteem? This Atlantic article explains it well. Basically, self-esteem depends on your own success (or opinion of yourself) in comparison to others, while self-compassion is the unconditional loving kindness and friendliness towards yourself. There’s even a Buddhist term for this: maitri.
How did yoga help transition my perspective from self-esteem to self-compassion? By learning to meet me where I am today. Each yoga practice is different: my body, mind, and emotions can change a lot from one day to the next! Sometimes I feel like I’m a different person! But by noticing that these changes are like the weather: unpredictable and ever changing and out of my control, I let go of trying to control it. And I realized that those things don’t define who I am. They’re just part of my experience.
I’ll leave you with a loving-kindness meditation that I tried recently. It helped me really focus on and experience self-compassion.
May I be well.
May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be peaceFULL and at ease.
May I be happy.
Simply repeat these phrases to yourself during your meditation practice, or even on the go — while you’re commuting to or from work! Happy Friday!
image credit: Elisha Goldstein