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Developing Self-Compassion in Your Yoga Practice

Updated on October 26, 2014

It All Happens on the Mat

The yoga session on your mat is a microcosm of what happens in your life when your not on the mat. If your confident, strong or if you feel weak and unsure of yourself--it will show on your mat. If you compare yourself to others or if you are self-critical, it will show up on the mat.

The idea that yogis and yoginis (female practitioners) often share with their students is if you change things on the mat, you can transfer these changes to your life off of the mat.

In a very real sense, your mat becomes a very sacred place, sort of a rubbery sanctuary or a Manduka church. It is a place to change old habits that aren't working. It's a place to develop your focus and positive intentions for your life. And most of all, it is a place to develop self-compassion.

Characteristics of Someone with Self-Compassion

  • Self-respect
  • Assertive
  • Good boundaries
  • Not comparing self to others
  • Positive and nurturing self-talk

Relaxing and Hip Opening


Respecting Mind and Body

The self-compassionate yogini respects both her mind and body. She is dedicated to good self-care that includes what she puts in her body, does to her body and what she does for her mind.

Respecting the body means that one does poses or asanas that enhance body functioning and develops a healthy, flexible body. The person does not do poses that are too difficult that could risk injury. A person with a knee or back issue should not do the wheel or perhaps, side crow.

The yogini that practices self-compassion treats her body to nurturing food and has a mindful awareness of what the body needs in the moment--perhaps to stabilize the breath in child's pose or mountain pose.

Respecting where your mind is means becoming mindful of your emotions like being afraid, frustrated, or angry during your yoga practice. It is important to be aware that these emotions are temporary and move in and out of your mind. View them as temporary and don't cling to them. Know that your emotions will come up during difficult poses or twisting poses or poses that open up the hips. Allow these emotions to float in and out of your conscious mind.

1. Value where you are at in your practice. 2. Have confidence in your practice, knowing that this is the best you can be right now. 3. Your body is fine how it is, in fact, it is perfect the way it is.

How do You Treat Yourself in Yoga?

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This High Lunge on a Picnic Table Feels Good


Being Assertive for Yourself

The yogini that practices self-compassion is also an advocate of her self. She will not tolerate poor treatment from others or people who violate her personal boundaries. She will have a voice; she will speak up in a respectful way to others whenever the need arises.

If the yogini has a particularly aggressive teacher, who attempts to make an adjustment that does not work for the student--the assertive yogini will speak up. "I learned the reverse triangle this way. I don't need an adjustment on it, thank you."

1. You have a right to speak up for yourself when you are put down or violated. 2. You are equal to the others in the yoga group. 3. During the voicing of Om in yoga class, open up your throat Chakra with confidence.

Smart Yogis have Good Boundaries

Smart yogis are yogis who know themselves and their limitations. They are the ones that know who they are, what they can do and what they can't do. They display good behavioral boundaries. They come to the class on time, they leave their shoes out of the yoga room, they give their peers space between mats, they don't chat or talk during class, and they turn off their cell phones so not to disturb others.

Again, they know their physical boundaries. Every day is different in yoga. Some days the yogi can't do the side plank or the wheel or he doesn't have enough energy or flexibility to do the scorpion. The smart yogi knows his boundaries and limitations. He is mindful of his boundaries with regards to others and he doesn't infringe on others and in doing so helps to create equanimity for himself.

1. Be mindful that your mat is your boundary and that is where your practice is. 2. Follow the written rules of the yoga room. 3. Follow the unwritten rules of the yoga room to create a good and healthy environment for yourself and others.

A Kind and Accepting Yoga Practice

"If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete." Buddha

Your Yoga is Your Yoga

A big part of yoga is looking within yourself. It is about developing a mindfulness around your body and your thoughts and emotions. Being a good yogini has nothing to do with the other person and whether that other person has looser hamstrings or can do an arm balance asana longer.

It's not about your peer wearing a cuter Lululemon outfit or that you think your peer is a show off. It's not about the other yoginis. It's about you. Instead of looking around to see what other yoginis are up to--What is your practice up to? What are your clothes doing--are they too tight or do they flow with your movements? What are your hamstrings doing--are they too tight or are they loose enough to put your hands flat on the floor during a forward fold?

1. Focus on your practice and don't compare. 2. View others positively--you can learn from them and they can learn from you. 3. Challenge your envious or jealous thoughts. They sabotage your practice and enable egotistic thinking.

Self-Compassion and Yoga

Good Boundaries
Not Comparing
Positive Self Talk
Value where you are at
Speaking up for yourself
Your mat as the boundary
Focus on your practice
Confidence in your practice
Equal to others
Follow yoga room written rules
Learn from others
You body is fine how it is
Voicing your Om
Follow unwritten rules
No envy

Doing Poses Without Comparing Your Practice to Others


You Are What You Think

Angry thoughts beget angry thoughts and loving thoughts beget loving thoughts.

It is highly important for the yogi to be mindful of this thought process so he doesn't put his mind in a negative pattern. This is the value of meditation and shavasana in your yoga practice. When you track your thoughts in meditation, you become aware of your thinking patterns. Are they mainly positive? Or are they extremely critical?

During your asana practice, do you find yourself saying judgmental things to yourself? "I can't do this." "I'm never going to do the full lotus or a headstand." Your negative self thoughts will limit your practice and make yoga a chore rather than a blessing.

1. Let your self-talk be positive and nurturing. 2. Let your self-talk be gentle and kind. 3. Let your self-talk be encouraging.

Self-Compassion Yoga Affirmation

Visualize your body, notice any stress or uneasiness that may be lingering within, and offer kind and loving words to yourself.

May I be safe.

May I be peaceful.

May I be healthy.

May I live with ease.

Take a few breaths and sit quietly in your own body, savoring the good will and compassion that flows naturally from your own heart. Know that you can return to these affirmations anytime you wish.

Gently open your eyes.


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    • Venus Rivera profile image

      Daisy Rivera 

      4 years ago from Chicago, IL

      You're welcome, Mark

    • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

      Mark Tulin 

      4 years ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Thank you, Venus

    • Venus Rivera profile image

      Daisy Rivera 

      4 years ago from Chicago, IL

      This was a great hub.

    • Venus Rivera profile image

      Daisy Rivera 

      4 years ago from Chicago, IL

      You're welcome, Mark. I will keep that in mind thanks for the heads up.

    • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

      Mark Tulin 

      4 years ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Thanks, Venus. Restorative poses could also help after a week of weight lifting as well. It helps in rejuvenating parts of the body that might be sore or strained.

    • Venus Rivera profile image

      Daisy Rivera 

      4 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Your table chart that you displayed in your hub was very informative for me. I love practicing yoga, it's one of my favorite exercises to use after a long week of weightlifting. Thanks:)

    • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

      Mark Tulin 

      4 years ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Your welcome.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Very nicely presented hub with illustrative and helpful pictures!

      Yoga practice definitely helps to develop self compassion.

      Thanks for sharing this motivational hub!

    • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

      Mark Tulin 

      4 years ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Thank you for your comment.

    • manatita44 profile image


      4 years ago from london

      Very interesting this practical exercises and using them for life lessons at the same time. Thought-provoking and reflective.


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