Ahimsa or “non-harming” is a key part of yoga. Essentially, it is the practice of kindness. There are various ways to cultivate Ahimsa in yoga, with one of the most popular being meditation. Through specific meditation styles, you can learn how to create kindness and compassion for yourself and the world around you. Often, this meditation technique is referred to as “Awakening your Buddha Smile” and awakens your natural potential for compassion and kindness.
To develop kindness, you don’t have to feel ‘friendly’. A key aspect of friendliness is that everyone is welcome. With this in mind, feeling friendly when you practice kindness meditation is not a necessity. If you do happen to feel happy – great! But also remember that it’s okay to feel anger, sadness or hurt, or any other emotion you may sometimes try to avoid. Through yoga, you can learn how to be kind regardless of how you’re feeling. So, does yoga teach kindness? In short, yes! Putting on your yoga pants can make you kinder and more compassionate. In this article, we explore the topic in more detail.
Kindness meditation is a great way to cultivate kindness with yoga. Essentially, the practice is mantra meditation with a focus on kindness and compassion. For best results, find a mantra that resonates with you and recite it regularly.
During the practice, some resistance is normal. When it comes, don’t chance it away or think of it as a hindrance. Instead, allow it to just be. Take note of the feeling, particularly if it relates to kindness or compassion. Occasionally, kindness meditation can bring up uncomfortable, or even painful, feelings. It might take you back to a time where you experienced a lack of compassion when you desperately needed it. While getting in touch with this may hurt, it will help you to heal and become more compassionate for others. For some people, kindness can feel uncomfortable or even make them scared or angry. It may remind you of a time in childhood when you were told you “should” be kind when you were perhaps lacking kindness. This can sometimes hurt.
It can also be tough to look with kindness at the things we don’t like about ourselves. Many of us are critical to ourselves when we do things that are ‘bad’ – such as eating a share-bag of crisps or binge-watching a TV show. You may feel that looking towards these things with kindness means you’re giving in. However, that’s not the case. Nobody is perfect all the time. Binge-watching Netflix or eating fast food is fine, providing that you do it in moderation. Through kindness meditation, we can cultivate kindness and compassion towards ourselves and those around us.
During kindness meditation, watch yourself with kindness from a distance. If you’ve never done this before, this may sound odd. However, it’s part of almost every type of spiritual training. Most of us know how it is to be looked at critically by others. For some of us, this may even feel more ‘normal’ than being looked at with kind eyes. This is why it’s important to watch yourself with kindness and compassion, to stop the critical eyes that are hurtful to us. To find our Buddha Smile, we must watch from the heart as opposed to the eyes. This will help to unlock our potential to be at peace with ourselves and the world around us, even if we feel sad, angry or inadequate. Remember that a smile during kindness meditation is not mandatory. Although, of course, it’s great when there is one. During the practice, we connect with the Buddha Smile and cultivate subconscious kindness, regardless of our current mood.
Yoga is also a great way to teach children kindness. As you’d expect, this aspect focusses less on meditation and more on the physical practice. Instead of lecturing kids on the importance of kindness, we plant seeds that will grow in the future.
As a parent or teacher, your actions are vital for setting an example that children will follow. Treating kids with respect and kindness is a powerful tool, planting seeds that will bloom in the future. It’s also important to acknowledge simple acts of kindness. This reinforces kind behaviour and teaches them more about respect and compassion.
Many children’s yoga classes focus on kindness. During the session, the kids practice sharing, taking turns, helping one another, listening, using kind words, cooperating and offering support. The teacher does this for the children and encourages them to offer it back to one another. Over the course of a few weeks, children learn how to show random acts of kindness. For instance, a child may offer to switch places with another child who wants to sit with a friend, or a taller child may switch on the light for a smaller friend who can’t reach. Other examples include a child giving a toy to a friend in need, a child reaching out to help another during a balancing pose, children taking turns in games and activities, children problem solving and working together to tidy up, children using kind words when talking to one another or a child offering encouragement to a less confidence friend.
So, does yoga teach kindness? In short, yes. In adults, yoga teaches kindness through meditation and the reciting of mantras. With regular practice, we learn how to be kind towards ourselves and the world around us. In Children, yoga teaches kindness through encouragement and the reinforcement of kind behaviour. With this in mind, putting on a yoga top and hitting the studio really can cultivate kindness – in adults and children alike.