This week in our Yoga practice we're drawing our attention to Compassion. In Sanskrit the word Karuna can be translated as the "desire to remove harm", which is essentially the definition of compassion. Karuna can easily go hand in hand with Ahimsa (the first of the Yama), which means not to cause harm. To cultivate a sense of Karuna, it helps to invite in Metta (loving kindness), a desire to bring about a well-being and happiness, whilst also observing Karma (action and reaction).
If we think of compassion and Karuna as a desire to remove harm, how can we cultivate a sense of compassion as we move through a Yoga flow or even a physical workout for ourself and our body? I witnessed the perfect example in my very first in-person practice of the year this morning; an attendee didn't feel so good, you know sometimes when you move your body in the morning and a wave of nausea hits? It seemed like that was what this person was experiencing, so they decided to stop mid-flow, sit and breathe. This to me was exactly what I was trying to get across. Now, obviously this wasn't necessarily the nicest way to start the morning - especially if you're mentally ready for a specific type of movement to start your day. It can be easy to allow feelings of frustration, guilt and disappointment to set in - but the point still stands that this person chose to show themself a level of compassion by stopping their movement, coming into a shape that felt more comfortable, and focusing on their breath.
And they remained there until our practice finished.
I take it as a real compliment when someone feels comfortable enough in the practices I lead to do precisely what their body needs when they're in my care, whether that means allowing themselves to be guided by me fully or to spend the entire time lying / sitting / being still. Sometimes we can move through a really amazing asana practice or a physical workout and feel on top of the world, and then the next day we can be kicked firmly back into our box because our body needs to stop. A lot of us (me included!) would likely berate ourselves, feel guilty for not completing our movement of choice, for not doing what we said we were going to do when in reality, the best thing we can do in those moments is stop, observe what's happening and go with it.
During times of stress it can be so easy to focus on the things that don't bring us joy, to focus on the things that cause us to feel even more stressed, and to forget to show compassion for ourselves and others by becoming frustrated and angry at things that might normally not bother us at all. Compassion leads us towards empathy and reminds us to avoid causing harm (Ahimsa), by inviting Metta (loving kindness) into our hearts and in this lies Karma (action and reaction).
This week I encourage you to think about how you can show yourself more compassion when on the mat and in your everyday life. I encourage you to think about compassion for those around you too, and not just the people you love. I always remember a teacher saying to me in college that often the angriest people are the ones who are most in need of a hug. That's stuck with me to this day, and sometimes I'm great at remembering this but I am human so there's also times I catch myself. So you know, when you catch yourself, acknowledge it, show yourself some grace and move on. Cultivate that Karuna within yourself so you can extend it to others.
The colour for January is said to be red and the element is earth so whilst our flows are going to be powerful, there's a real sense of grounding down as we rise up. Red is the colour of strength, healing, courage and creativity. Every Yoga flow begins with a breathing technique and this week we're practicing our Ujjayi breath, often referred to as Ocean breath, which I personally love because it really does sound like the ocean waves crashing against the shore with every inhale and exhale. Next month is Febreathary and Ujjayi breath is included this year. But if you'd like to practice this sooner rather than later then keep an eye out for my first pre-recorded asana practice of the year, available from Sunday on my YouTube channel, where we'll explore the topic of compassion in more depth.
One of my own focuses this year is to get back into my Aromatherapy (yes, I'm a qualified so I've been creating my own blends for room sprays and I love sharing so here's the blend below for you. I generally work with a 1:1 ratio and my spray bottles are 9ml so that's a total of 9 drops of essential oil. Please do NOT use this blend on the body, essential oils can be highly volatile so please only use as instructed below. body blends are an entirely different process altogether. This blend is NOT recommended for use during pregnancy and if you do have medical conditions I recommend speaking with your Doctor first.
Rosemary oil - 4 drops- Balancing, uplifting, anti-depressant
Lavender oil - 3 drops - Balancing, anti-depressant, pain reliever
Peppermint oil - 2 drops - Stimulating, pain reliever, warming
Here's the playlist we're flowing to this week, feel free to listen and see how it moves you.
Want to join me on the mat? Check out my timetable here. Or if you're looking for something to kick-start your Yoga journey and managing your own stress then consider signing up for my Yoga for Chronic-Stress course, which starts in March. If you live further afield or simply prefer to engage online, then check out my new online membership, Feel Good Fridays, which is just £12 for January
I'd love to know how you've began cultivating a sense of compassion in your life and in your Yoga practice this week. Let me know in the comments below.