Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself. ~ Mohsin Hamid
Empathy can be described as the ability to identify, understand and share in the feelings of another person. Unlike pity, which infers a sense of judgement, empathy is about non-judgement. In the words of Moshin Hamid, ’empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.’ To be truly empathetic we must cultivate the ability to step down and meet someone wherever they are at.
Aside from the fact that having greater empathy benefits those around us, the roll on effect is a practice that is profoundly good for us. Research suggests that being more empathetic can improve relationships, creative productivity, and overall health & wellbeing. Studies also show that a decline in empathy is due to factors that reduce human interaction, such as the rise in technology.
So how can we find empathy through yoga?
There is a direct correlation between stress and our ability to be empathetic. The regions of the brain that regulate the stress response also allow for empathy and connection. Stress makes it difficult for us to think clearly and respond kindly. Extreme stress shuts down the higher regions of the brain and chronic stress actually alters our biology, becoming a precursor to many physical illnesses. The more stressed we become, the less empathy and creativity we are capable of.
Through our practice of yoga, we are already developing the ability to be more connected with ourselves and consequently have a deeper connection with those around us.
Empathy on the Mat:
You never really know what someone else is carrying around with them, which is why it’s important to show empathy. Even if you’re not exactly sure what you’re being empathetic about, sometimes its enough to simply let someone know they are not alone.
Empathy is communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘You’re not alone.’ ~ Brene Brown
As yoga teachers we acknowledge that every person comes to the mat with their own story. It’s also important to appreciate that every time YOU step on the mat you bring your own set of experiences & feelings. Be prepared to honour where you’re at on any given day. At times, don’t expect too much and learn to be kind to yourself.
Compassion and Loving Kindness Meditation practices are a wonderful way to build empathy towards yourself and others. The practice of gratitude is another powerful tool in cultivating more empathy.
Empathy off the Mat:
- Turn off technology, especially when there are opportunities for personal interaction, such as at mealtimes. Face to face contact, finding a connection with the people and environment around you, is an important way to develop empathy.
- Put yourself in someone else shoes by asking yourself, ‘what would it be like to go through this or to feel this way?’
- Be honest with yourself and others, as this promotes trust and allows you to form genuine relationships.
‘Empathy’ is your power.
This month focus on your ability to be more empathetic on and off the mat. Set yourself up with a positive affirmation. This could be one for the month or a different positive statement each week or day. We just encourage you to keep it consistently on the theme of ‘Empathy’. An example is ‘I can easily show empathy towards others.’
Explore and create your own.
We look forward to seeing you on the mat this month where our teachers will weave our theme of ’empathy is my power’ into their classes and teachings.
Sweat, stretch & smile!
This is our recommendation for further reading on ‘Empathy’. Check out ‘Train Your Empathy’ by Patrick King. Enjoy!
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