Compassion is Yoga

May 10, 2012 | Articles, Featured | 3 comments

By Nischala Joy Devi.
Compassion is the sacred energy that flows through the heart chakra to each and every living thing in the universe. When accessed it allows us to feel a sense of onesness with all.

As yoga students and teachers, compassion blossoms as our inner guidance. It constantly reminds us that it is not the exactness of a technique that gives students the experience of Yoga, but the ability to access our own sacred energy.

Compassion is fostered by our personal experience through hardships, physical, mental or emotional or by perceiving with an open heart, others suffering.

The next time you have a slight injury or pain, allow the awareness of that discomfort to expand, embracing the many that live with chronic suffering on a permanent basis. This consciousness greatly aids in the development of our compassion.

The great privilege of learning compassion in my life came through both of the ways described. As a child and young adult I had multiple infirmities. Yet, my greatest gift of compassion came when I was able to share the great teachings of yoga with people who’s lives are intimately infused with pain and the fear that often accompanies it.

All the formulas and structures accrued dissolve as we embrace a person in their deepest suffering. A prayer that the person is able to stand or bend without discomfort replaces the alignment once thought to be so important in asana.

Compassion is the catalyst that allows the great teachings to guide them in realizing that the physical body is the temple housing the Divine Self.

According to yoga philosophy disease manifests not from the physical, but from the disconnection with our source or spirit. When we are able to remember who we are the healing is accelerated.

When we look to and study the reasons for this separation, the Kleshas Sutra II-3, Avidya Innocence of our true nature, is the prime cause of forgetting. As compassionate beings our ability to help others is directly affected by our own belief in this most basic of concepts.

On a practical basis when teaching yoga to people with life threatening diseases, I use practices that embrace the totality of who we are physical, mental, emotion and spiritual being.

My initial entry into working with this population blossomed as I became more and more disillusioned with the western style of medicine. In their need to specialize, the whole was often missed. The separate parts became more important. From this narrowed view, the Divine within was forgotten.

Weaving the understanding of the miracle of the human body with the elegance of the spirit, allowed me to help create a new way of looking toward the whole person.

This incident early on guided my view inward to the wholeness we long for.

“Don’t tell me you have been in with a patient all this time, simply listening to her talk and comforting her when she cried. That is a waste of time. Keep that up and I will have to dismiss you from this Physican’s Assistant training program.”

This was the response from the department head after I was summoned, failing to report exactly on time after performing a procedure in a patient’s room.

It was a moment of truth for me. It happened on my normal rounds one morning, walking into the hospital room of a woman with end stage cancer. She was six months pregnant had three other children and was very frightened and feeling alone. I was there to do some procedure; I can’t even remember what it was. As I started to take out the instruments, I glace up and our eyes met. At that moment, something happened. I could feel as shift in the room and in my heart. Placing the instruments on the bedside table, I then enacted what my heart dictated. I got into bed with her and embraced her. We held each other, and wept.

Now many years later after completing my training in as a physician’s assistant, being involved in Medical research, studying and teaching Yoga, I have learned that certain methods, practices, diets and procedures work-much of the time. When they do we are so happy. But there are times, all our protocols, ideas and hypothesis’s just don’t get to the essence, the root. What do we do then?

After so many years of reflection I now realize that during the time I was accused of wasting time with the sweet young mother with cancer, was indeed Yoga. The aspect of Yoga that is the depth of healing, that sooths as it heals, not only the patient, but the therapist, and ultimately the world.

The practices and philosophy of yoga blending the both physical and spiritual conjol them to unite. Healing then happens. This blend was put forth to develop the research protocol and study, Dr. Dean Ornish’s Lifestyle Heart Trial and the Award winning Commonweal Cancer program. Both programs gave me a feeling of gratitude and a sense of contributing to bringing light into western medicine.

The constant refinement and rediscovering of the yogic practices allows each person to gain the benefit of healing. Often the healing was not a total physical cure, but a rebalancing of the energies that flows through the body, mind and emotions touching the spirit. It affords everyone a sense of peace and clarity making decisions and changes based on their highest level of healing.

Yoga is the creation of a balance of energies that allows the natural intelligence of the body to right itself. It is for this reason that most of the gentle practices can positively affect any disease or imbalance. It facilitates the alchemy by connecting hearts and souls, remembering that we are all ONE.

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  1. steve abel


    Your writings continue to touch my heart. And for that I am grateful. Wishing you all the best.


  2. Marise Fennell

    I am deeply moved by the heart of the sutras and your commentary and articles. Somehow you make sense of everything I have experienced as a practitioner of yoga of the heart, I just didn’t have the context. Many blessings.

  3. Milena

    Love your article. Processing some past pain and getting deeper into the meaning of the experience of opening my heart eyes to understanding the depth of life and connection to all!!

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