SELF-COMPASSION

“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” Lao Tzu

Self-compassion is extending compassion to one's self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. Kristin Neff has defined self-compassion as being composed of three main components – self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.

Self-compassion involves three main elements:

  1. Self-kindness vs. self-judgment.

  2. Mindfulness vs. over-identification with thoughts.

  3. Common humanity vs. isolation.

 

Why Self-Compassion?

Over the last decade or so, research has consistently shown a positive correlation between self-compassion and psychological well-being. People who have self-compassion also have greater social connectedness, emotional intelligence, happiness, and overall life satisfaction. Self-compassion has also been shown to correlate with less anxiety, depression, shame, and fear of failure.

An Alternative to Self Esteem

Though self-compassion is not the same as self-esteem, people who have little self-compassion might also have low self-esteem. Both are important traits to possess, but researchers are increasingly arguing that too much self-esteem can be as detrimental to mental well-being as not enough self-esteem. Teachings based on fostering self-esteem, especially at a young age, may place more emphasis on encouraging positive feelings and a belief that one is special than on building individual competence in a particular area. High self-esteem may facilitate the development of a biased view of the self and may make it difficult to improve any flawed areas. Those with high self-esteem may be more likely to experience difficulties in their relationships with others and may tend to engage in acts of anger or aggression toward those who threaten their self-image. They might also be more likely to put others down in order to maintain an inflated view of the self.

Benefits of Self-Compassion

Research shows that self-compassion has many benefits, ranging from fewer depressive and more optimistic thoughts, overall greater happiness and life satisfaction to greater social and emotional skills and improvements in physical health. Specifically, some positive effects noted by studies are:

  • It increases motivation.

  • It boosts happiness.

  • It improves body image.

  • It enhances self-worth.

  • It fosters resilience.

  • It reduces mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, and stress.

 

How to Learn Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is a skill that can be learned by working with a therapist or on your own. Some strategies to increase your compassion are:

Consider how you’d treat someone else.

Imagine what you’d do if someone you cared about came to you after failing, getting rejected or any upsetting situation you find yourself in. What would you say to them? What understanding and caring advice would you give them?

Become aware of your self-talk

You may be so used to criticizing and judging yourself harshly that you don’t even realize that you’re doing it. Pay particular attention to the words you use to speak to yourself. Would you talk to someone you cared about the way you are talking to yourself?

Comfort yourself with a physical gesture

Kind physical gestures can have an immediate calming effect on your body by activating the soothing parasympathetic system.  Giving yourself a hug or holding your own hand can also drop you into the present moment in your body and get you out of the negative chatter in your head.

Say compassionate affirmations

Have a few phrases ready for when you catch yourself judging or criticizing yourself. Counter negative thoughts with compassionate statements to yourself. The affirmations need to present tense, positive, personal, and believable to work. Combining positive self-talk with a physical gesture — like placing your hands over your heart — can increase the impact.

Practice guided meditation

Over time, meditation can retrain and rewire the brain and make it so that self-compassion and self-soothing become more natural. You can find several self-compassion meditations here.

 

Yoga for compassion

1. Reclining Bound Angle Pose

Place a three-fold blanket on a bolster as a firm pillow. Sitting with buttocks against the back of bolster, bend your knees and place soles of feet together. Loop the strap around the hips near the sacrum (not lower back), over the top of the thighs and under the ankles. Pull the strap to a comfortably tight position. Gently recline back over the bolster on an exhalation. Adjust position of blanket so it is under your head and neck, not your shoulders. Rest your arms to the sides, palms up. Allow your body and mind to rest deeply as you naturally lengthen your breath and sigh tension away. Feel your chest opening as you relax into the bolster. Rest for a few minutes, slowly come up to sitting and remove the strap.

 

2. Mountain Brook Pose

Position a three-fold blanket and a half-folded, tightly rolled blanket on your mat. Lie over them, adjusting accordingly so the rolled blanket sits under your shoulder blades and the three-fold blanket becomes a pillow for your head and neck. Place the bolster under your knees. Bring the arms out to the sides at shoulder height. Rest deeply, breathing slow, steady breaths as your upper back softens and releases into the pose. If uncomfortable, reduce the height of the rolled blanket then continue the pose. Stay in the pose for a few minutes if you can, then release by removing the rolled blanket and lie flat for a few moments to neutralize the spine.

 

3. Supported Bridge Pose

Position two bolsters lengthways on the mat. Sitting on bolsters, strap the thighs together just above the knees to secure internal rotation of the femurs (thigh bones). Lie over the bolsters so the edge is pressing against your mid-thoracic spine and your shoulders and head are resting on the mat. If your lower back feels uncomfortable in the pose, bend your knees up, resting your feet on the bolster. Allow this backbend to open you emotionally and provide space in your life for compassion for the self and others. Breathe into your heart center with love. To release from the pose, gently come off the bolsters, remove the strap and lie flat for a few moments to neutralize the spine.

 

4. Reclining Twist with a Bolster

Sit with the side of the left hip touching the edge of the bolster, knees bent, feet together and swung behind to the right. Gently twist the torso to face the bolster. Inhale. On exhalation, fold your body over the bolster. Turn your head to the left. Stay in the pose for a few minutes, then release and repeat on the other side. If you need more height, place additional blanket(s) on the bolster.

 

5. Forward Virasana Hugging Bolster

Sitting on the knees facing the bolster, separate your knees to the width of the mat and bring your big toes to touch. Bring the bolster in between your legs. Inhale. On exhalation, pivot from the hips and fold yourself over the bolster. Turn your head to the left. Wrap your arms around the bolster, hugging it. After a while, turn your head to the right. Slowly release from the pose.

 

6. Legs Up the Wall

Line up the bolster or folded blankets close to the wall on your mat, leaving a small gap between the wall and the bolster. Sit sideways on the edge of the bolster with the left hip touching the wall. Bring the legs up the wall as you bring the head and shoulders to rest on floor. Adjust so the buttocks are touching the wall. Strap the thighs together just above the knees to allow you to rest deeply into the pose. Apply compassion and love to yourself as you give over to the healing benefits of this pose, flushing your circulatory system and detoxifying your body and mind, refreshing and balancing your energies.

 

7. Relaxation Pose

Lie on your back with the bolster under your knees to further relax your body into the pose, palms facing up on the floor. Scan your body and consciously release tension from the feet up. Then keep your mind focused on your breath. Breathe compassion into every cell in your body.

Essential Oils Therapy

  • Ylang Ylang  (Oil of the Inner Child)

  • Rose (The oil of Divine Love)

  • Geranium (The oil of Love and Trust)

  • Melissa (The oil of Light)

Meditation

Chakras, breathing, body scan, deep meditation