Want To Be a Better Person? Do Yoga
In light of International Day of Yoga held on 21 June each year, and as an avid yogini myself, I dedicate this post to illuminating how Yoga can make you a better person – more compassionate and more capable of looking out for others.
Now this may come as a surprise to those of us who mistakenly think yoga is just about body bending into shapes of various snacks from pretzels to pinwheels, all while looking quite appealing in a pair of skin tight leggings. Hang omm, we’re missing the bigger picture here.
What Instagram doesn’t allow us to see beyond the frame of the perfectly poised bikini clad hand stand, is that yoga is so much more than the West has lead us to believe.
To me Yoga is not only what you do in a physical Asana class nor is it a set of challenging sequences that you brag to your spiritual hippie friends about – yoga is a way of life.
For those of you who are new to yoga or have perhaps never tried it, you may be a bit lost by now. So let me explain.
Yoga is not what you think it is
Let’s start with the basics and invert all the information you’ve ever imbibed about this ancient practice. Yoga consists of eight limbs, most of which are usually gleaned over, shrouded in some vague mystic mist, or not mentioned at all:
Yama — social codes of universal morality
Niyama — personal codes
Asanas — postures
Pranayama — life force regulation
Pratyahara — withdrawal of the senses
Dharana — concentration, cultivating inner awareness
Dhyana — devotion, meditation on the divine
Samadhi — transcendence, union with the divine
The purpose of the yogic system is to aid the aspirant in reaching Nirvana or ultimate bliss. What this means will be different to each one of us. So let me share my own personal tale on how yoga has enabled me to be a more caring and compassionate person.
3 Ways Yoga Made Me A Better Person
Yoga taught me self-love
Now this may seem a selfish first statement, but how can we possibly give love to others if we haven’t first given it to ourselves? As a prolific people pleaser, it took me quite a few years to realise that the happiness I brought to others was only a shadow of what I could provide if I filled up my own proverbial cup first.
Yoga teaches you to dive deep into who you are, to uncover the good, the bad and the expertly hidden. To face your shadows, uncover your talents and unravel years and years of unconscious conditioning. Once you can see and appreciate yourself for who you really are, only then can you truly see and appreciate who the rest of the world is.
To show love and compassion to another, first show love and compassion to yourself.
Yoga changed my habits for the good
Once you start getting into the nitty gritties of who you are as a person, you start seeing all the habits that have been keeping you back. As Neal Donald Walsch, Author of says:Conversations With God
“What we resist persists, what we look at disappears.”
Equipped with an incredible armour of awareness, we are able to actively change our habits to become the person we’ve always dreamt of being. For me yoga taught me the invaluable lesson of Ahimsa which I could loosely translate as, “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you”. It advocates non-harm for all living beings, including yourself. It’s because of practising yoga that I naturally found my way onto a vegetarian path and started attracting incredible organisations like Brownie Points into my existence.
Yoga got me out of my head
Perhaps the most important point for me personally, is that yoga took me out my head and put me into the world. One of the first things my mentor told me at my first yoga teacher training was that I thought too much. At the time I couldn’t believe that he had such incredible insight into the admittedly overrunning onslaught of thoughts in my head. But a few years on and now I can see how obvious it that someone lives too much in their head by the appearance of their life and the way they are with others.
When you learn to think less, you are able to hear more. You can truly be present with the people in your life and give them the attention and advice they truly seek. You become less absorbed in the self and more absorbed in the world.
The greatest gift you can give anyone is the gift of your full attention.
Now you don’t have to practice or teach yoga yourself to experience the benefits of this benefactor art. Here are local charities using the power of yoga to uplift our country. Get in touch to get involved:
Yoga Based NGO’s in South Africa
- Ahim’SA – promoting nonviolence and peace through yoga.
- Earth Child Project – uplifting schools through yoga and meditation.
- The Art of Living – enabling self-development through mindfulness techniques.
And in celebration of International Yoga Day this year, I leave you with an uplifting story about the power of yoga changing lives in Pollsmoor Prison.
Looking for ways to get involved and give back this International Yoga Day? Get in touch and we will link you up to causes near your community.